: Luhan/Luhan (side: Luhan/ Joonmyun, Luhan/Kris, Luhan/Jongin, semi Luhan/Yixing, Luhan/Minseok, slight!Luhan/Sehun, past!Luhan/Yixing)
: selfcest, mental instability, psychological issues, suggestive themes, implied character death, aspects of self harm, manipulation, verbal abuse, possessive tendencies, obsession, mental abuse, hubris, depression, violence.
: The most important person to love in any relationship is oneself.
fic exchange. I have avoided posting this because I wanted to go back and finish up editors notes and complete the full version, but have yet to complete that. So, until that is completed, here is the initial version. Proceed a your own risk~
The time passed has lessened the looks, the students passing about and the small talk that flows around campus simmering down to nothing. One story fades into another as the events among the young adult lives move from one even to the other, soon forgetting amid the passing of gossip and rapid social interest. The sun gleans off of the windows of the building Luhan is sitting in, legs crossed before him and idly looking out into the fall sunshine, the leaves not yet turned and the sky a crisp clear blue.
He’s late, but the urgency he might once have felt is absent, instead an ease about him as he sits and just enjoys the sunlight. It won't be long until he’s found anyway, the habit of his companion enough that it’ll only be minutes until his phone buzzes against the tabletop, alerting him that his absence is noted and missed. It will pull a smile over his lips, picking up the phone and answering without rush, offering a simple “I’m on my way,” before he leaves at his own pace.
On so many levels, leaving his current location is anything but appealing, just sitting and enjoying the lull between classes when students are all preoccupied. The soft comfortable chairs of the student service center are forgotten and Luhan can enjoy a moment to himself. It’s the quiet moments like this that are so rarely given to him amid the flurry of too many friends and too many obligations, activities that piled up atop academics and pushed down to bury him into the ground.
The phone, newest model and in a simplistic black case, name engraved on the back in gold, vibrates, buzzing loudly on the table. Luhan’s eyes remain on the windows, tracing through them the skyline against the trees in the distance, the too far away blurred tops blending into a mass of dark against the bright clear blue and pure air. He lets out a long breath, thinking of the conversation awaiting him, the look of brief sadness and the fumbling statements, the forced jokes that aren’t funny anymore and the digs that has his nerves too tight and his shoulders stiffening.
The buzzing stops, name on the display screen switching to notification as Luhan’s eyes follow the miniscule form of a bird, flying into the sky and vanishing behind buildings only to reappear and continue on it’s path that he’ll never know. In an hour, he’ll be in the front row of a lecture, air stuffy and stale, a professor dictating material that Luhan already knows from checking notes and reading material, utterly worthless before him. Luhan will take notes, pen scratching over paper as is mandate and hold himself with a straight back in perfect posture, asking insightful questions that are drilled into him from years of having to learn what is acceptable and what isn’t to say to a professor; someone better than you.
Get the most out of your life, your education, and never leave holes for failure.
So far, Luhan has done a good job of that. So far, nothing significantly abnormal or life threatening has come up. He has new meetings once a week that disrupt the delicate system and schedule he’s kept for years, but he can adjust even if the necessity of it escapes him.
The phone vibrates again and this time, Luhan picks it up with a sigh, not looking at the name as his eyes instead close, bringing the device to his ear and waiting. “Hello?”
“Luhan?” A foolish question considering the caller called his phone, thus expecting to speak with him, the owner of the phone.
“Hello, Joonmyun,” Luhan replies rather than ‘obviously’ which would feel far more satisfying. Polite, present your person as you wish others to see it and as they find the best. Always be the best, the best that he can be and the best that he wants to be. Never settle for less. Never let yourself be anything less.
“I thought-” Joonmyun begins, his voice dropping a bit on the line and Luhan stands up with little rush, taking his time to move from the comfortable chair as he lifts his shoulder satchel to rest over his shoulder. Joonmyun clears his throat over the line. “I thought we were meeting up today.”
“Am I late?” Luhan steps from the windows, the stretching scenery left behind as he turns to leave the Student Service center, walking back towards the library where Joonmyun has been waiting for the past twenty minutes. Maybe more, considering his need for punctuality that has him looking at Luhan in clear annoyance for when he doesn’t operate in the same way.
“No,” Joonmyun says, though there is a sigh to his voice and Luhan’s mouth presses a bit in disappointment.
Joonmyun was perfect. Joonmyun smiled at all the right moments, praised him when Luhan never expected it, making him feel warm and fell in love so fast it swept Luhan under as well. He wasn’t as shy as Luhan thought he’d be, holding hands and paying for dinners and doing everything as he was supposed to, as expected. Joonmyun was perfect, but it didn’t last. With all of the perfection on the surface it was easy to miss the flaws underneath.
Flaws that can never be hidden forever. Flaws that began to drag at Luhan’s mind and keep him awake, shying away from touches and making up excuses with the raw clenching in his throat of strings cutting into his skin, words wrapping around him in a vice until he couldn’t move or breathe. It got to be that Luhan couldn’t answer the phone without his stomach twisting at the thought of being pressed by nagging words and sharp reprimands and prying eyes into him when he just wanted space.
Withdraw. Hide it, never show it, keep it out of the eyes of others and never let them see the times when doubt is the strongest emotion and pain is just on the brink of cracking through his bones.
The spineless nature in which Joonmyun bends to please and satisfy and apologizes when he should stand up straighter and grates on Luhan’s nerves every moment that he spends with him. Dating isn’t a trial, and yet Luhan feels tested every moment that Joonmyun apologizes for his terrible humor and the moments that he realizes he pushed too far. Again.
There comes to a point when even amid all the good, all that Luhan can see is the grotesque and the bad, tainting his hands and masking his vision until his insides clench and he retches.
“I’ll be there soon,” Luhan says, stepping into the autumn sunlight, drawing his sunshades from his bag and sliding them onto his face. He ignores the students around him, striding to the library and to his waiting boyfriend, soon to be no more. He ignores the looks that he gets, the few eyes that linger and keeps his breathing down, his mind calm from what might be spinning over in those heads. He inhales the sharp autumn air, letting the cold bite of the approaching season change strengthen his resolve.
Joonmyun is standing in the front lobby of the library, looking clean and proper and checking his phone with a small worried frown on his handsome face. A face that changes and Luhan has seen morph too many times now to be blinded by any further. He smiles when he looks up and sees Luhan. His smile drops as they sit in the back of the library, hidden by the towers of bookshelves and the hush of the working environment. Luhan watches as his face shadows in confusion and hurt, the small pang in his chest the only indication that he may regret this, hurting Joonmyun like this, until the other man’s eyes fill with tears. It’s all he needs to see to sit back and settle with the weight that fills his stomach.
“I’m sorry,” Luhan says, the response automatic as rivulets of tears begin to slide down Joonmyun’s once perfect face, now twisted and ugly as he crumples in pitiful sadness. Luhan can’t bring himself to reach out, to comfort, instead seeing the sad visage before him as something to never become. It wasn’t working, there was so much missing and while Joonmyun was there, fussing and nagging, a bit pushing though he claimed to do it out of affection, he never loved Luhan. Never.
“No, you’re not,” Joonmyun bites out, looking at him with a harshness in his eyes that has Luhan’s jaw clenching.
He can’t deny it, and so rather than speaking, Luhan stands and turns away.◦❀◦“If he should love, deny him what he loves!”◦❀◦
“I broke up with my boyfriend.”
The pause of a pen has him watching her fingers, curled around the ballpoint poised over a paper. It’s not like this is significant news, nothing interesting or new or special. It doesn't matter much really, none of the questions asked today relevant and the basic formality of ‘how are you?’ redundant.
There is no correct answer for the inquiry when being placed in this room under the sharp eyes of someone with medical placards on the walls speaking of professionalism and reputation all speak for him.
There is no okay, there is only broken and in need of being fixed. Never be broken, never need fixing. Control, contain and self repair, suck it up and hold it in.
She’s watching him, glasses perfectly situation on her nose and eyes hidden behind the lenses, flashing in the border between himself and everything she represents. This isn’t her business, really, Luhan sitting here and following through the methodology of asking and answering questions, being told it will help when there is nothing to be done.
There is nothing wrong.
The sun glints through the haze outside, spilling into the room and reflecting in pools of light over the carpet and the bookcases opposite him, the atmosphere calming and quiet, simplistic and easy. Breathe in and find a sense of peace, speak the mind and reevaluate life and the choices made, the thoughts within his mind and the feelings within his heart that are already too burdensome.
“It wasn’t working,” he answers after the long pause. The longer the pause the less he has to answer of the meaningless questions. Go home, I want to go leave.
“What do you mean?” she asks, pen setting down as she shifts in her chair. Today is a white blouse, navy blazer and khaki skirt. Professional and leaving no space for personal association, something that he can read from her that will bridge the gap between professional and informality.
Nothing lasts, nothing stays and the expectation for something to be as first seen is foolish, most of life folly in and of itself. “I didn’t love him.” He couldn’t love me.
Love, meant to grow and expand, to couple with something internally and resound and accept, which has no conditions and no qualms. Which doesn’t result in disappointment after disappointment and taxing against the mind and soul.
“Did you let yourself?” she asks and Luhan is tired of this already. The minute hand of the clock ticks away the seconds before his skin can once more warm under the sunlight outside and he can breathe without the feeling of suffocation against his lips.
He runs his tongue along the bottom line of his teeth, the ridges of bone against the muscle slightly uneven. “It just wasn’t working out between us.” It never could. It never would.
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
His eyes snap up to hers, shaded behind the thin glasses and the complacent expression and the words that are consoling and often bring relief to others out of compassion doing nothing. Looking for an ulterior purposes, motive, or rationale behind it instead, he settles further into the couch.
“It’s nothing,” he answers, pushing away the feeling of prying discomfort that pulls at his skin. “He wasn’t what he seemed anyway. He’s not what I want.” The tart flavor of arrogance crawls up the back of his throat to settle on his tongue but he keeps his mouth closed, not wanting to correct himself, not to her.
“And what do you want, Luhan?”
Her eyes are steady as they bore into his, the questions all blunt and direct, nothing of the soft phrasing that some others have tried on him, the same sickly sweet compassion and strange hesitancy that too much will push him over the edge. Luhan is stronger than that, he always has been.
He doesn’t answer the question, the answer still vague at the back of his teeth and buried in the deepest recess of his mind under the nets that hold everything together.◦❀◦“What strange mistake has intervened betwixt us and our love?”◦❀◦
“Luhan,” Yixing sighs, arm slung over his shoulder as his brows knit in perplexed contemplation. His voice is raised slightly over the music that is turned to unacceptable volumes and bleeding into ears and out through the windows, people following in it’s wake and weaving together. “It’s been weeks. Just move on.”
“I broke up with him,” Luhan says, easing into his best friends touch without a second thought, Yixing warm against his side, body strong and stable, study where Luhan has come to rest more times than he’ll admit. “It not about moving on.”
“But you’re still alone,” says the young man joining the conversation, handing a blue cup to Luhan with a pointed raise of his eyebrows. Minseok’s lips are already touched with a hint of pink, the mixed liquor staining them with an alluring shine. He’s wearing a plain white tee tonight, casual but the dark blue blazer over it gives him a sophisticated look, alluring and impressive with his hair pushed back. “You hate being alone for this long.”
Luhan accepts the cup without thanks, taking a sip of the mess of liquid within, the poignant slur of alcohol all mixed together blurring out anything distinct aside from the future of blurred vision and thoughts. “Two weeks is hardly a long time,” he says, leaning a bit more into Yixing, smirking a bit as his friend tips a bit, almost losing his balance. Yixing shoves him back, lightly, and steadies them, a reassuring pressure against him, a comfortable weight around him. “You’ve been single for a lot longer. We all have.”
“I’m just saying,” Minseok says, shrugging before he turns to their surroundings, eyes drifting over to the rest of the room. The couches are all filled, the tables covered in messes of cups and plates and bottles of alcohol half finished, some supporting people and their inability to remain standing. The too sweet and sick taste of alcohol lingers on Luhan’s tongue before he takes another sip. “It’s not like Joonmyun was the end of the world.”
“I never said he was,” Luhan says, speaking more into his cup than to Minseok, not wanting to meet his eyes as his mind drags over the topic of his ex, the eyes which always held too much and never spoke enough to him except when it dug too deep and raw. “Look, we broke up. I’m not going to hook up, what’s the big deal? It’s just a party and just a weekend. You go find someone if you’re so eager to match make tonight.”
Minseok’s eyebrows raise, Yixing turning to look at him, fingers pressing into Luhan’s shoulder as he takes another drink, trying to swallow down the irrational irritation. “Fine,” Minseok says as Yixing’s face creases in the beginnings of concern. “I guess I’ll see you around then.”
The music is too loud, as it always is and Luhan’s head is pounding from a long week, muscles aching slightly from taking extra hours at the gym, the words from classes and his texts flashing before his eyes too. The swell of talking, punctuated by shouting has his eyes traveling over the mass of people before him, some he knows, most he’s never seen before.
The look on Yixing’s face when he turns to him is far more concerned than Luhan feels he has the energy for now when he can begin to feel the light rush in his veins and his tongue feels too sweet and heavy in his mouth. “Another drink?” Luhan suggests, not wanting for Yixing to corner him.
He doesn’t have the energy tonight.
“Are you sure you’re even supposed to be drinking?” Yixing asks, immediately snapping against Luhan’s nerves as his eyes narrow.
“Why wouldn’t I be able to drink?” he asks, pausing as he made to draw his arm from Yixing, sense sharpening on his now lightly blushing friend, the rouge against his cheeks having nothing to do with the alcohol pounding along with his blood and polluting his body. “What’s wrong with me that I can’t drink?”
Yixing eye’s widen as Luhan takes a sharp step back. “There’s nothing wrong with you,” he says, following as Luhan makes towards the kitchen, the people crowded and packed like bees in a hive, too drunk or uncaring to move when he approaches. He weaves between them, his skin itching and the slosh in his stomach from the drink Minseok had given him reminding him of the dinner he had skipped. “I never said there was something wrong with you.”
“Good,” Luhan says, not looking at Yixing. The cool handle of the ladle in his hands grabs his focus, scooping the bright red liquid into his cup and bringing it to his lips. He takes a long drink before grabbing Yixing’s cup and filling it as well. “There’s nothing wrong with me,” he says, looking at the cup with a small concentrated from, pushing down the crawl up his chest as the alcohol slides down.
The purse of Yixing’s lips is all Luhan sees before the other is stepping away, muttering about checking on something and returning soon. “Take care of yourself, yeah?” he says, a hand resting gently at the small of Luhan’s back as he passes, leaning in and his breath ghosts over the back of Luhan’s neck.
Flinching slightly, Luhan turns to meet his eyes, the usually glazed and carefree cast to them absent. “I’m fine
,” he says, perhaps with a bit more force than necessary.
Yixing just nods, a slow dip of the head before his hand drops from Luhan’s waist, the warmth receding as he pulls away, the skin at the back of Luhan’s neck tingling. “I’ll be right back,” he murmurs, turning away, eyes dropping as he slips from Luhan, weaving and disappearing into the mass of people.
The lights of the kitchen are too bright, the fluorescent bulbs harsh against his eyes and making the tiles of the floor look even more filthy than they are, the overuse and lack of proper sanitation setting his teeth on edge. The sink is piled with dishes, the people all milling in the area seeming uncaring as to the state of the room and Luhan nearly cringes as he turns back to claim his cup. Instead, he finds an empty cup waiting, hand holding it to him and his eyes flicker up, surprised blooming in him as he sees a tentative smile on a handsome face.
“Fill me up?” the stranger asks, eyes warm as he looks down at Luhan. He’s wearing a sports coat, his blond hair pushed back from his face as he waits for a reply. He smiles, perfect teeth white and flashing gums behind pink lips and Luhan wets his lips.
Yixing has vanished somewhere, Minseok lost somewhere in the depths of this house and probably forsaken him for the next few hours. His home waits with his mother, asleep in her bed and himself absent for the weekend, dorm room vacant and lonely in darkness. The only comforts offered in his own abode are his own reflection gazing back at him, while here he can drown amid new faces and rambling conversations.
The smile given to him is warm, slightly hesitant but the man still stands there, waiting for him. “Sure,” Luhan says, not thinking further as he reaches out, taking the cup and quickly filling the cup, handing it back to him. He looks back up to meet those eyes still on him, the man not walking away. “Anything else?”
It’s hard to lean against the counter, but the guy tries anyway, a light pink spreading over his cheeks as he fumbles slightly and then grins at Luhan rather than getting flustered. Luhan finds himself smiling. “What’s your name?”
A sip of the red liquid is drawn out, Luhan glancing to his side where Yixing has stepped back, gone now amid the nameless bodies and faces that sway to the music and with balance unsteady. He will find him later, think about talking, maybe checking on him, knowing how terrible Yixing is with his liquor. Absent now, however, and the lack of supervision has Luhan’s nerves ready to jump, the slight thrill running through him that has nothing to do with the liquor.
So it is with a smile that Luhan turns back, feeling less on edge as he is met with the waiting and expectantly warm smile of the other man and holds out the hand not holding his drink. “Luhan,” he says, leaning in a bit and feeling a small hint of satisfaction when the other man’s eyes widen and he takes in a small breath. “What about you?”
“I have a few names,” the guy says, his eyes dancing as they fix on Luhan, hand soft and easy as he takes Luhan’s and shakes it, not letting go immediately, his large fingers dwarfing Luhan’s and something about it sets a curl to the pit of his stomach. He leans in, as if sharing a secret or something only they two can know. It has the corner of Luhan’s mouth twitching in amusement. Childish, silly but endearing in it’s own way. “But you can call me Yifan.”
“Yifan,” Luhan repeats the name, watching as the smile on the other’s face broadens. The name is familiar, Luhan having heard of a student in his same year under the name but never having met him before. He wonders if this is the same quiet but kind hearted person he’s heard others talk about, Yixing laugh about as he recounts the next thing he’s done. He smiles, finally letting his hand drop from Yifan’s as Yixing steps back further, separating himself. “Nice to meet you.”
A smile spreads over Luhan’s lips, mouth opening to ask Yifan something, anything, try to push and see how far he wants to take this conversation, when a loud yell startles him, head jerking to the side. Face beaming and dimples pressed deep into his cheeks, Yixing steps out from between two people. It takes Luhan a moment before he realizes he’s not looking at him, instead meeting the eyes of Yifan as he opens his arms and Luhan’s eyes widen as the two hug.
“I didn’t think you were coming tonight,” Yixing says beaming as he pulls away and looks up at the taller man, being met with a warm and friendly smile. “Something about parties not being your style.” He laughs, loud and high and full of life as Luhan watches and feels slightly disconnected.
The laugh Yifan lets out seems to come from his center, spilling out and it’s nice, warm and real and the humor lights up his face. “You were pretty convincing though, with all those texts.”
Luhan hadn’t seen Yixing on his phone the whole evening. He widens his eyes in surprise as Yixing’s catch his. “Sorry,” Yixing says, stepping up and resting a hand at Luhan’s elbow, smiling at Yifan. “Luhan, this is my friend Yifan, from one of my poli-sci classes last year.” He smiles, turning to Yifan. “Yifan, this is-“
“We just met, actually,” Luhan cuts Yixing off, earning a surprised look from his best friend, looking to Yifan and smiling, a small note of satisfaction curling in his chest when Yifan’s eyes meet his and glint. Yixing’s eyebrows raise.
“Oh, good,” Yixing says as Yifan turns back to him. “I was hoping you two might,” his eyes flicker to Luhan for a moment and Luhan doesn’t have the time to read them before they’re back on Yifan, Yixing smiling brightly, “have something to talk about.” When Yixing looks back to him, his eyes have adopted the light glaze to them that he often sports. “Lucky that you met him.”
With eyes that rest on Luhan and not Yixing, Yifan smiles, manner calm and reassuring. “Yeah,” he says, teeth flashing in a gorgeous smile that has that curling sensation twisting in Luhan’s chest again. He takes another sip of his drink. “I’d say I’m pretty lucky.”
Luhan doesn’t miss the way his eyes crinkle and dance, the way he shifts his weight nor the way Yixing’s eyes flicker between them. He smiles, stepping a bit closer and feeling the long waited spread of warmth through him resurge, the pleasant hum from being near eyes that appreciate sinking into him. “Lucky guy.”
Yifan doesn’t talk much, instead picking and choosing between his words, a dance of a smile always around his lips and, despite being so tall and broad, standing out a bit with his strong features and impressive height, he’s amazingly careful. He speaks with Yixing like an old friend, laughing for a bit as his hand drifts to brush against Luhan’s side hesitantly and careful of him. Yixing leaves them after a while, wandering off and looking a bit unbalanced but brushing off the concerned words of Yifan as he departs. Luhan imagines him off to go do something more important, pressing or seeing more of the many friends he seems to pull from the woodwork of the house.
Through the mess of college students wavering between the edges of sobriety and the fog that swims in their minds, Luhan’s cup goes missing and he sits drinking in the way Yifan’s hands move as he speaks, the way his tongue curls around words. The way his eyes darken and linger as they rest on his lips.
From across the room, leaning against one of the walls by the windows, drink in hand and jacket stark and nearly black against the white of his shirt and the wall behind him, Minseok watches him with eyes that flicker. Luhan catches his eye, smirking a bit at the look within them. Minseok is alone, which is less than Luhan can say about himself, turning to Yifan to talk, telling him about his studies, his academic research and specific projects, all self designed within his curriculum. Tells him about his home, his talents and hobbies and laughs when Yifan asks him to sing, smiling and teasing as his hand comes to brush, resting hesitantly just touching his knee.
A tug of a smile, plays over his lips as he settles back, warm and pleasant on the couch and looks at Yifan, at how he watches him and listens to him, how he’s warm and kind. Yixing had told him a bit, his reputation preceding him of the athlete who changed directions to go into academics rather than stardom.
All too soon, Yixing is curling to Luhan’s other side, mumbling something about sleep and tucking himself under Luhan’s arm, earning an amused smile from Yifan as Luhan tries to shove him off. “Time to go home,” Minseok says, coming to the scene and tugging Yixing up, slinging the other man’s arm around his shoulders as he throws Luhan a significant look. “You too.”
At the door of the house, the party thinned out and leaving only a few left, the sharp nip of the autumn air against his skin, Luhan turns to Yifan and is met with a hand held out to him. “What?”
“I want to give you my number,” Yifan says, a light pink on his cheeks as he watches him, that same intrigue and warmth and comfort about him that pulls at Luhan to stay
despite how Minseok is watching him and Yixing is mumbling in a slur of Chinese behind him.
“Why?” Luhan asks even as his hands dig in his pocket for his phone, the smooth immaculate black case cool against his fingers.
“So you can call me tomorrow when you’re free,” Yifan says, accepting Luhan’s phone with surprising delicacy, long thin fingers, swiftly flying over the flat touch screen and a moment later he hands the phone back to Luhan. On the screen is flashing a name and number. Looking up, he sees Yifan smiling, a playful edge to it as he holds up his own phone and swipes the answer bar. Luhan watches in slight disbelieving amusement as Yifan brings the phone to his ear.
Luhan mimics the gesture unconsciously. “And now I can call you,” Yifan’s says, voice duplicated in the speaker by Luhan’s ear.
A surprised laugh bursts from his throat, Luhan letting himself laugh as Yifan’s smile grows, watching him and the interest on his face is written plainly for Luhan to see. Not that he was ever in doubt, the soft touches and motions, attentive listening through the evening enough. It makes Yifan’s smile brighten, pleased as the hand holding his phone to his ear drops, eyes on Luhan.
“I’ll see you around,” Luhan says, stepping from the porch and walking down the steps, back towards campus, his empty dorm room and his friends waiting just feet away, one watchful and attentive and the other gone for the evening.
“Is that a promise?” Yifan asks, not moving as he watches Luhan leave.
Luhan simply smiles back at him, beautiful in the night as the pleasant curl in his chest expands, spreading through him at the look given to him. “You’ll find out tomorrow.”◦❀◦
“What do you want to talk about today?”
It's always so casual, as if Luhan sitting there on the sofa is just a light choice of life, as if this isn’t a social symbol for sickness. “I don’t know,” he answers, picking at the fraying seam of his jeans, ignoring the woman before him and her steady calculating eyes, watching him and judging.
Always judging. Everyone is judging him. It never stops, never helps and never changes, just being seen and assumed as weak because of his looks despite how he is anything but. The burden of being compartmentalized when he is anything but what images depict.
"I don't know what I want to talk about?" Why is the decision up to him in the first place? The money a foolish waste when the questions are only to get him to talk about things he never wants to.
Wasting breath when he can answer his own questions, when talking never helps but only makes it worse, the excess of verbal words doing nothing but to spin back to him and spiral out of control. Normal answers are the only things which he has trained himself for, giving what is wanted and keeping what is important.
Don't let them take it. All that is his keep close and keep at the best that it can be.
"What about your friends?"
"Is this some sort of interview?" he asks, the questions beginning to wear on his nerves, the prying and the too calm demeanor beginning to slide uncomfortably under his skin, digging into him. "If I don't want to talk about something, then why do I have to?"
"Luhan." The clipboard is placed down, the pen resting perfectly atop with precision that comes only from intentional practice. "This isn't a place where you have to feel like you can't talk. This is a safe place, nothing you say will be used against you. You don't have to be scared here."
"Why would I be scared?" he snaps, already on edge, the too soft and soothing patronizing tone sending his teeth on edge. He hates being here, hates sitting here and feeling victimized when he's not, just wanting to get out and ignore the foolish tactics that he spins in his head and doesn't want to think of the purpose behind. "What is there to be scared about?"
"Me," is the simple answer. "What I might think of you if you tell me what you really think."
"I think this is stupid," he says, the walls which offer bland simplicity, the perfectly level and positioned cabinet and book shelf, even the couch, desk, and chair that she's sitting in. It's all organized in some sort of horrific feng shui methodology meant to sooth and offer comfort and serenity and Luhan just wants to tear it apart. It's too fixed, too simple and he breaths through his nose to keep from letting himself get worked up.
"Okay," is the infuriatingly calm answer. "Why?"
"Because I don't see the point of me talking about my life and myself." Stating facts and logic. There is no reason for him to be here. There is no reason for most of the things that has happened. There is no rationale behind the painting of red against white and empty promises. "What point is there for me to tell you about my last relationship or know what I had for breakfast. Does it matter to you that I work out or hate sweets?"
"Everything matters," she says, that same even and bland tone that suggest nothing out of the ordinary and nothing for him to learn from, only emptiness. He resists balling his hands into fists. "All of it matters because it's all about you."
Eyes close and he breathes in, trying to sort through the slight rushing in his ears and the sense of humiliation and insignificance that begins to throb with every beat of his heart. Job. This is her job. "I am majoring in Business," he says, voice calm and level as he focuses on the feeling of his jeans under his fingertips. "I'm going to graduate in a year in the top ten percentile."
"Impressive," she responds. The clipboard is back in her lap, pretty manicured hands, fingernails painted crimson, holding the pen carefully as she writes, a smooth flowing script. Her hair is back today, pulled from her face into a high bun placed perfectly atop her head, glasses on her nose perfect as usual. "Not many people can talk about achievements like that."
"I work hard." Years and hours of dedication and perseverance, fighting through school and taunting and the turning away of the attention he wanted the most. Indifference. "It's what you need to succeed. That and luck."
"What will you do after that?" she asks, watching easily and pen twirling in her fingers. Black blazer today and a white blouse, a necklace of pearls hanging around her neck to match the studs in her ears. She looks pretty. "Do you have any plans after university?"
"Get a job," Luhan answers, at this point automatic. Get a job, get a home, please his boss and charm his coworkers, prove he's the best by being himself and fighting until he is where he belongs. Get a job, succeed. Get a house, succeed. Find someone to be with and make them the best to match himself and do everything he wants with his life.
"That's a pretty good idea."
"Is it what you want?" He drops his eyes, focusing on the sunlight streaming through the window that splays over the carpet, lighting it cold and fading out the crimson. "Luhan?" Breath in as the dust particles dance in the light, weightless in the air and supported by nothing, holding their own form and shape. Mindless nothing.
"Yes." The correct answer.
He's been trained well, the reply enough that he believes it himself as he watches the dust dance in the sunlight and the clock on the wall ticks past the minutes in a soft reminder of the time that counts down until his breath leaves his body.◦❀◦
Yixing is smiling at him, obviously pleased as he sits down at lunch. It's cloudy outside, and the other boys mood is inexplicably happy aside from Luhan knowing Yixing has the strange habit of being persistently positive about life to the point of being nauseating.
"What?" he asks, setting down a salad and his cola, grabbing a wet napkin from the small pack he carries with him in his bag. "You look like you just won a bet."
"I knew you'd like him," Yixing says, self satisfied smile on his lips as he looks at Luhan and practically beams.
“Who?” Luhan asks, sitting down with a frown, not sure who Yixing is talking about, his phone resting on the table and flashing occasionally, just as it has been all day, all past few days, buzzing gently against the wooden surface. It brings a warmth to the pit of Luhan’s stomach, making him eased.
“Yifan,” Yixing says the name as if it’s obvious. “I knew you’d like him.” Luhan blinks, surprised. “He’s a really good guy and you two look good together.”
Luhan tries to scoff it off, the involvement of Yixing in this a little strange, his mind flashing to when Yixing’s mouth never smiled like it does now. “Of course we look good together,” he says, trying to laugh it off. “Anyone looks good when they’re with me.”
“Or horrible,” Yixing laughs, watching as Luhan shakes his head, fork piercing into his salad and his phone buzzes lightly on the table beside him. “Considering you’re...” Luhan’s eyes flicker up to him, the harder note in the them spreading over his shoulders as they stiffen, Yixing’s smile faltering into a look of semi-apology. “You.”
“What are you talking about?” Minseok asks, dropping into the seat beside Luhan easily and picking up Luhan’s buzzing phone. A brief flash of panic spiking through him, Luhan makes a grab for the phone, frowning as Minseok holds it out of his reach with a pointed look. “What?”
“Luhan’s newest lover,” Yixing teases, smiling blithely across the table and Luhan sneers at him briefly before holding his hand out for his phone, his eyes on the device resting in Minseok’s hands.
The curl of Minseok’s lip at him has Luhan’s stomach clenching a bit, wanting to just snatch the phone back and ignore them both, drown himself in the unread messages from someone else who won’t be bothering him so much. The curling irritation at the center of his chest begins to crawl up, and he frowns at Minseok’s now full blown smile. “Phone, please.”
“Wow,” Minseok says, laughing a bit as he hands Luhan the phone, device instantly checked over as Luhan turns from his friends, pushing his hair from his face fastidiously and tongue dragging over his lips anxiously. “Did he actually just say please?”
“Ears don’t lie,” Yixing says, smiling pleasantly as he watches Luhan, fingers gently playing with his fork.
“Shut up,” Luhan grumbles automatically, scrolling through the list of messages, calming down at the flashing names, friends, his mother, a few notifications and one name repeated over and over with old fashioned emoticons from four years ago that clash terribly with the flattery. It’s cute, in a sort of funny way, where Luhan smiles even if he doesn’t mean to do so blatantly. “It got you to give it back.”
“I would have given it back anyway,” Minseok says, leaning to read over his shoulder, arm draping over him and Luhan tenses. He nearly jerks it away, from prying eyes and the want for privacy creeping along him in irritation but he stays still, letting Minseok lean on him, watch him as he scrolls past the messages. “Jeez, that’s a lot of texts.”
“Try hard,” Yixing says with a laugh and it somehow warms Luhan rather than bother him. The screen goes black on his phone, reflecting himself and he idly checks the mirror version of himself, looking for imperfections and flaws in his face or visage. He smiles, the expression looking back at him as he finds none and Minseok scoffs, pulling back.
“He seemed nice,” Luhan says, idly, going back to his salad and picking at it. He thinks of the messages, streaming down the screen of his phone and all just soft and gentle comments. It’s cute.
“He is,” Yixing adds and Luhan looks up, the suspicion he had from when Yixing had ‘introduced’ them back on Saturday. Yixing’s eyes flicker, the look of guilt and speaking what Luhan expected shining in them. He finds he doesn’t mind it as much as he might have though, instead the scowl on his face mostly there out of habit. “Sorry.”
“It’s fine,” Luhan says, sitting back and abandoning his salad, earning a small frown from Minseok that he ignores. The food at the school was always sub par, one of the reasons he prefers to eat at home, on the weekends he goes and visits, pressing a kiss to his mother’s cheek and being met with formal affection. “You don’t have the worst taste.”
“Is this the same guy from Saturday then?” Minseok asks, looking at him with a newer interest, leaning over his plate as he studies Luhan.
“Yifan, yeah,” Luhan says casually, sitting back in his chair, ignoring Minseok and the calculating and slightly hard look from his friend. He bites back the smile, enjoying the sense of distrust, of over placed concern and wariness at someone else with Luhan. “He wants to get dinner.”
“When?” Minseok asks as Yixing’s phone pings at an arrived message and he busies himself, pretty thin fingers dancing over the keypad.
Classes this week are harder, the students chattering in the mess hall a light buzz against Luhan’s thoughts as he mulls them over, his schedule and his plans. He has some commitments, but commitments are easily pushed to another date. “Tonight.”
The salad remains untouched on the table, greens half picked over and left for nothing. It wasn’t great and Luhan doesn’t feel the need to bother with finishing it. Minseok’s frown deepens. “I thought we were meeting in the library tonight. To work.”
A schedule that can easily be changed. Leaning a bit over the table, Luhan fixes Minseok with an imploring look, a light frown pulling at his lips. "Can we move it?" he asks, tilting his head and biting gently at his lip at Minseok, feeling that small ping of satisfaction as Minseok's expression falters and he sighs, sitting back. Luhan grins, knowing he's won.
Yifan is waiting for him outside of his building when Luhan comes down, smiling at the other man, hands shoved into the pockets of another sports jacket, shoulders broad and a handsome smile on his face. "I'm glad you could come out tonight, Luhan," he says, stepping close and the same smile of gentility on his lips. "I was beginning to wonder if you'd ever be free."
"I made time," Luhan says, not minding when their feet are almost so close walking they run the danger of tangling. He doesn't mind that Yifan listens more than speaks tonight, that he sits and smile as Luhan talks, leading the conversation and getting laughter in response for his humor. Luhan likes it, how Yifan finds him funny. He likes the way that Yifan looks at him, the way he talks gently and laughs foolishly, his humor abstract at best but more and more endearing. Luhan likes how comfortable it is to spend time with him, the stronger, larger man far softer than Luhan might have expected from his initial confident introduction.
"You're really amazing," Yifan says, walking with their hands brushing after dinner and after sitting with coffee for a while, just talking and learning more and more about each other. Luhan smiles, breathing in deep the fresh air and warm in his jacket, warmer with Yifan beside him. He looks up at Yifan, his blond hair softer about his face tonight but features no less striking as he walks along the sidewalk, close and comforting.
"Am I?" Luhan asks, teasing just slightly at the edge of his question, watching Yifan keenly to see if he catches onto the quip. Instead of a quick rebuttal,which he may have expected in any other circumstance, Minseok shooting him down without batting an eye before laughing and exchanging a look or Yixing who mimics his proclamation with a definite note of sarcasm or flippancy, Yifan looks at him seriously, meeting his eyes. It makes Luhan's heart jump in his chest, the sincerity in his eyes and the lines of his face speaking of nothing but truths and honesty.
"You are," Yifan tells him, the warm brush of his fingers over the back of Luhan's hand not unwelcome. As a light pink begins to dust over the smooth skin of Yifan's cheeks, Luhan smiles, the pleasant curl in his chest expanding out and making him feel alive and full, lacing his hand with Yifan's without hesitation.
"Thank you," he says, and means it.
The night sky is clear above the lines of trees and buildings, a vast expanse of black, the pinpricks of light flickering as stars look down on the earth and observe all that comes and goes. The light of the moon mingles with the streetlights that illuminate soft the area of the campus, casting a faint warm yellow glow about the browning grass and the plants still clinging to the last remnants of summer and warmth. Luhan's eyes slip closed as his hands fist in the front of Yifan's sports jacket, leaning up and gently pulling the other forward, wanting to laugh at the surprised look on Yifan's face as he bends down, apparently disbelieving, before their lips press in a silent kiss.
The pleasant hum and tingle against Luhan's lips doesn't leave him, nor the smile that graces them as he turns after a soft goodnight, ascending to his dorm room to retire for the evening and mull over the evening spent in the company of a man now no longer a stranger. The room seems warmer though the bed cold and empty as Luhan enters, his eyes wincing at the bright light before falling on his reflection in the large mirror in the corner. His hair is slightly mussed, out of place from when Yifan's fingers had brushed through it carefully as he had cradled Luhan's jaw in his hands and tilted his head just a little further into the kiss.
He smiles, the reflection in the mirror flashing it back to him as a feeling of contented calm spreads through him.○❂○
78 . 82 . 103 . ∞
All people ever talk about are their relationships lately. It’s like immediately upon meeting someone all they care about is whether you’re dating, who you’re dating, what the story is behind it and how everything is. It’s always about stories, what can they know about your life, about you, about me, about why I’m dating them and how I met them.
It’s kind of stupid, because everyone really is just living vicariously through other people, listening to these stories, or they’re just asking to occupy the time; to make you happy when honestly I don’t give a shit if you know about my love life or not. But there it is, what’s new? What’s happening in your life? How is your mother? How are your friends? How are your studies going? Are you still seeing that girl you did when you followed what other people told you or did you finally settle down with that boy like we never understood?
It shouldn’t really matter to other people what the hell I do with my life. It’s my life. I want to do what I want to do and choose to do what it is I want to do. If you don’t like it, that’s your own damn problem and leave me the fuck alone.
I don’t want to tell you all the stuff that’s going on with me. I’ll tell you anything else, whatever it is you want. Fuck, I’ll tell you why I never talk about my dad and only mention that my mother is healthy if you really want to hear the story but I don’t think anyone gives a shit.
No one likes a boring and tragic and filthy story like that. They want something to sink their teeth into, that they can gossip about, something that has a good ending that can keep going.
I don't give a shit that I give you a good story, just by standing here as you ask what happened last month. That’s not what’s important. I’m what’s important, so ask about me and stop trying to make yourself feel more informed by asking who I’m fucking or not.◦❀◦
The constant smiling over the table is a bit unsettling, not disturbing the quiet of the library but the blatant disregard of anything remotely academic and all focus directed at him has the hair rising at the back of his neck. Looking up, nestled in the stacks and hidden from the majority of the libraries’ occupants, Luhan widens his eyes at Yixing significantly.what?
If anything, Yixing’s smile gets bigger, his eyes flickering to the side of Luhan on the comfortable chairs, often forgotten in the back of the main levels of the atrium. The slide of eyes has Luhan’s chest clenching, fingers twitching and a light squeeze responds, quiet and gently reassuring and sending that flutter back into the base of his ribs. Yixing’s eyes glint in merriment and Luhan, after a moment, squeezes back slowly.
It’s been strange, the past few weeks, as October pulls over the campus with the bright flashes of leaves changing in the brilliant reds, yellows and oranges that set fire to the trees and the skyline. It’s been strange not because of the seasons change but because of the sudden new presence that has taken up residence in most of Luhan’s time, a quiet but reassuring figure that smiles with him and at him and whose hands curl around his almost instinctively.
Yixing’s eyes meet his over the table between them, strewn with books and he mouths “you’re cute” to him with his dimples pressed into his cheeks. His eyes flicker to Yifan, seated beside Luhan, hand wrapped easily around his and holding, relaxed as he reads over one of the books for his literature classes. He has a pair of glasses resting gently on his nose, some that Luhan knows are there for fashion more than for practical purposes, his bottom lip gently pulled at by his teeth as he remains absorbed in his reading.
It’s been a few weeks, just over a month, enough for a first date to rapidly roll into three, laughter and conversation coming easy with the soft press of lips in between and Luhan hadn’t hesitated when Yifan had asked for the word ‘boyfriend’ which spoke of exclusivity and made Luhan smile to himself as the thought passed through his mind randomly during the day. It feels natural, easy and pleasant to sit here with his best friend far more productive at doodling all over his notebook than dedicating any proper time to study with Yifan beside him, knowing he could just lean over and press his lips to those high cheekbones.
It’s been a few weeks, and it’s so comfortable it feels like longer, like it could stretch on at the same pace and progression and Luhan would let himself be swallowed around it and pulled in until he forgot there was anything else but the feeling of Yifan’s lips on his and his fingers brushing his hair from his face with a small smile.
The books on the table are too many, the number of classes far less than the subjects being studied at the moment, instead all done in preparation, following schedules and plans and keeping ahead. In his lap, Luhan has open his religious theory text, business books resting on the table before him and waiting for attention. His shirt smells vaguely of Yifan’s cologne, or perhaps it’s simply Yifan beside him, permeating into Luhan’s senses just as he has his life with Yixing smiling at them whenever he sees them.
Luhan’s eyes flicker up, resting on his best friend as Yixing continues to scrawl all over his book, tongue poking from his mouth with a frown creasing his brows. He watches as Yixing’s fingers press against the side of the pen, pushing it down and forming dark lines that sweep and connect on the white paper and wonders, for once, what he’s thinking. It had been easier, before, to know exactly what Yixing was thinking, reading his mind almost and no words needing to pass between them. It was much easier before, when Yixing didn’t do things like set him up on dates and instead was the one Luhan knew was wrapping his arms around his waist and laughing too loudly at.
Before it changed from Luhan and Yixing to Luhan and Minseok and Yixing and then all three of them seemed to branch around and shift and fade like passing tides. Before Luhan’s hand was held and comfortable and fingers fit around his own, hands large and holding him so carefully, soft smiles and warmth that sunk into his skin while Yixing smiled at him and Luhan couldn’t understand.
“Hey,” has him jumping, startling at the sound and jerking to look to the side, feeling his heart flutter at the surprise and noting the amused line of Yifan’s mouth as it curves to the side.
“Hey,” Luhan replies, keeping his voice quiet with respect for the setting. Keep quiet and respect, obey and always do as is told, as is expected. They’ve been here for a few hours, another hour more and Minseok will join them along with Yifan’s friend Jongdae. Luhan’s sphere of social connections slowly branching in a web of connections that he never expected to occur.
“You okay?” Yifan asks, leaning closer, his thumb running along the back of Luhan’s hand soothingly and making the skin tingle. “You look a little spaced out.” His thumb begins to press in a gentle circle and his breath smells of mint from the gum Yixing had pulled out earlier. “Take a break?”
“Fine,” Luhan says, offering him a smile that is genuine as he settles into this, into how the dynamic has developed, into how it is to be around Yifan. Quieter, softer and easy. He sighs, leaning in to press a swift kiss to the corner of Yifan’s mouth before he pulls back, shifting to rest his head, pillowing against Yifan’s shoulder, the padding of his sports jacket comfortable. “I’m fine.”
Fine seems to summarize just about everything Luhan feels, can see, and sense from the situation. Fine is about the most encompassing term for everything this has been, everything that Yifan is and everything they are together.
Yixing’s pen scratches over the paper, his tongue still stuck out and Luhan yawns, resting with a small crease between his brows as the word ‘fine’ begins to settle against his mind and crawl into the recesses of his thoughts.
The hallway opens, just as it always does to the front foyer, the staircase leading upstairs to the bedrooms with the banister polished and leading up. The lights are on, warm and welcoming and the floor clean and polished, the large oriental rug stretching over the floor, lush and thick, warm over the cold wooden floor. It’s a gorgeous house, older and with the walls painted a clean white.
It smells faintly of lavender, the dried flowers arranged about the house, giving it a clean smell and soft, gentle as it seeps into the air and settles along the grand dark wooden furniture. It’s welcoming, the quiet and the familiar stretch of the building exactly as it has been for over twenty years.
Ignoring the light on at the end of the hall, lighting the way to the living room and kitchen, Luhan makes his way up the stairs, turning left down the hall as he walks along the open walkway to his old room, still just as he left it. Perfectly clean and organized, his bed is made, shaking slightly as he drops his bag on it and sighs, looking around and checking his appearance in the mirror.
With a frown, he tries to make his hair rest properly, knowing that if it doesn’t she’ll fuss. His hand pauses, pushing back his bangs from his face as his frown stills, his eyes lingering on his own in the mirror, thoughts mulling rapidly. She is going to fuss anyway.
The light sound of Schubert wafts about the room like the faint aroma of lavender, mixed with the heavier scent of rose, the radio just by the window playing a CD that should have long been scratched and useless. His mother sits at the desk in the center of the room, her back turned to him and typing carefully at the laptop before her, spine straight and posture perfect.
The exact picture of proper representation and behavior, everything one would see and respect and understand is composed and balanced. Luhan clears his throat.
With a brilliant smile, his mother turns to him, her lips stretched in a well practiced gleam of white teeth. “You’re home,” she says, standing in a sweep of her long dress as she opens her arms to her only son. Immediately, her hands are at his face, pushing back his hair and checking him over, eyes sweeping in hasty critical examination as she tuts gently at him.
“You’re not eating enough,” is the second thing she says as her hand comes to rest gently at his shoulder.
Luhan smiles at her, relaxed and composed as he tries to let himself breathe easy in the comfort of his own him. “School food,” he says and she lets out a huff of a laugh.
“That’s no excuse,” she says, brushing past him. “Beggars can’t be choosers, Luhan, and neither can you.” She flashes him a look over her shoulder. “Even if you have the luxury of choosing.” Luhan simply bows his head in consent, knowing better than to open his mouth and disagree with her.
The number one rule of the house, for as long as he can remember, his mother has been the head. There is never argument, never conflict and only the well behaved acceptance of what her wishes were, her standards were, and her word and advice had to be heeded and abided by at all costs. Luhan, a bright energetic boy, learned very early that soccer star dreams were not practical no matter how good he was. He learned to focus his energy on other things; mathematics, biology and astronomy.
He learned that crying after tripping down the stairs did nothing to heal his wounds and only made his throat raw and face itchy with salt and tears. He learned to be quiet, to hold himself so everyone saw him but no one questioned him.
His mother fusses, as all mothers do, asking questions about his life at school, scolding him for not coming home in the past few weeks and frowning in disapproval when Luhan explains being busy with socialization and academics.
“Aren’t you keeping track of your studies?” she asks, seated in her customary place at the head of the table, fingers gently tapping against the rim of a wine glass as Luhan sits just to her right, subordinate and the second place of the household.
Luhan laughs, the sound refined and controlled as he sits back. “Of course I am,” he tells her, meeting her inquiring gaze confidently. “I’m always keeping on track of my studies. I’ve just become busier as of late.”
Luhan lips press, his tongue poking out to wet them as for a brief moment the dinner that his mother had laid out settles uncomfortable in his stomach. “I’m in a relationship.” He watches, waiting and holding himself steady, back straight, posture correct and not showing the slight nervousness that admitting that entails.
The flicker of the candles reflects on the glass that slowly rotates in his mother’s hand, glinting through the crystal. Her eyes don’t meet his, instead fixed on the flickering candles at the center of the table, the silver that has begun to streak through her black hair offering her the air of sophisticated age. “Oh?”
The urge to clear his throat is extremely strong as Luhan doesn’t move, withdraw from his mother and her evaluation, her thoughts. He refrains from doing so, swallowing instead and pushing down the slight tremor in his nerves at the look in his mother’s eyes. “Yes,” he answers. “I am. We’ve been together for about a month and a half.”
“I see,” his mother says, her eyes rising to gaze into the flames of the candles and not at her son as she raises her glass to her lips. “And are you happy with it?”It.
The is little interest on her face, far less than he remembers seeing on Yixing’s mothers face when he had been introduced, all smiles and welcoming fussing hands. He swallows again, the feeling of having to explain himself, to tell her why this was something he could do, should
do rising up the back of his throat like bile.
“Yes,” he answers, feeling sour and tainted. He wants to cough, to get the catch out of his throat as he sits in the suffocating silence that shrouds them. “He’s very-“ her eyes flicker to him finally, one brow rising “-kind. You would like him.” The tightness around his lungs increases, the fixed look of his mother’s eyes on him searing against his skin. “He’s in the same year as me; a literature major, looking to go into publishing.” Names. Names in importance. His mind spins as his breath shortens and he fights to keep the surge down. “He’s had a lot of internships at the firms in the city, probably going to be heading directly into a position after graduation.”
“Sounds like he has his life in order,” his mother comments, dropping her gaze finally to her place, the lack of scrutiny having the air wanting to burst from Luhan in a relieved sigh but he keeps it in. Keeps himself calm and controlled. He’s fine. He’s fine
. He and Yifan are fine
. “What about you?” she continues. “Have you set anything up for the winter? Any internships?”
The lump is back in his throat, mind spinning over properly phrased responses. “I already told you last time I was home that I was going to do a summer internship.”
“Many students do an internship in the winter,” his mother points out calmly, not looking at him as she carefully cuts the food on her plate into perfectly sized pieces. Delicate and calculated, exact in all details and methodology, his mother is the image of precision and poise, exactly as she taught him to mimic. “I remember hearing about it from Mrs. Kim. And Zitao was looking at it.” He pauses to take a bite. “You don’t feel yourself called to do the same?”
His throat is sticky as he swallows, his appetite gone. He can feel it in his body, the exact movement of muscle and tension, the swell in his fingers and the settle around his torso, lingering just below his navel. “I wanted to focus on my studies,” Luhan explains as simply as he can. Keep it simple. It’s fine.
He’s fine. Everything is fine.
The chair at the opposite end of his mother is empty and has been since Luhan came home wearing clothes too formal for a child. The chair is empty and it’s only his mother watching him and doing the job of a roomful of people all putting him on surveillance.
“I see,” his mother says, tone calm and indifferent and Luhan almost clenches his fingers under the table, to focus on something, anything else. He keeps his eyes fixed on her, in polite attention. “Well, that’s your choice. It’s your job to choose what is best for you, do what represents yourself the best, what is the most important to you.” The words slide into him, around him, just as they always do, circling around and sinking deeper until they wrap around the space in his chest and squeeze.
More than fine. Fine is never enough. You must excel. You are better than they are so show them your worth.you are my son. show the world what that means.
There is nothing to argue, Luhan casting down his eyes to his place and keeping his hands upon his thighs, the material of his jeans slightly rough in pattern against his palms as his mind flashes over everything that he could say but does not. “Yes, mother.” It is the only answer he can give.
“How is Yixing?” his mother asks, her voice drawing him from his thoughts. “And Jinri. I remember you spending a lot of time with them before. Did that change?”
Swallowing around the tension which still constricts his throat and sticks despite his greatest will to have it vanish, Luhan opens his mouth, a smile playing about his lip in automatic reaction, farce as to his demeanor, as he begins to weave stories. His mother smiles, that disconnected curve of her lips as she listens about Luhan’s friends, his studies, his classes and professors and the things he goes in his spare time. She listens as he tells her of the recent events of the school, the news of the neighbors and the recent political debates he has been following to keep himself informed.
She listens and never speaks, letting his voice fill the void of silence that has crept and made it’s home in this house with the scene of lavender and roses, covering up the stillness that has plagued it since Luhan was a child. She listens and her eyes follow his hands in their occasional gesture. She listens and Luhan talks and calms himself slightly in the attention focused on him, the reminder that he is her son and thus all she sees when he comes home to her.
Luhan is her son and the only one she has ever looked after so fiercely that to question her, to defy, was the largest transgression and all that was needed was a sense of approval, an accepting smile.
She smiles and Luhan’s breathing eases just a notch further in his chest.
Returning late to his room, hands slightly damp from dishes, Luhan pauses in the hall, his eyes lingering on the few photos hung along the walls. Photos of history, of landscapes and of families together. His mother and her sister, his cousin Zitao a child in the photograph, smiling brilliant with Luhan beside him looking slightly more reserved. A photo of himself. A photo of his mother, the handsome man with a gentle face beside her, his father, staring back at him.
Eyes closed in a bed of satin that never open.
An involuntary shudder spikes through Luhan, crawling up his spin rapidly as a wave of revulsion and spite slams into him without warning, turning swiftly from the photographs to walk back down the hall, shaking himself. As he closes the door to his room, the lamp flickers on and fills the room with a soft warm glow, Luhan’s hands beginning to shake as his breath shortens again, worse than it had downstairs.
A soft face with gentle features and pretty lips, eyes that were always so kind, too kind. A laugh that reassured and was gentle and sweet and loving beyond the point of reason, hands too small fitting over one of his soft fingers and holding tight. Luhan closes his eyes, breathing through his nose to rid the images from his mind as they flicker in faded tandem behind the lids.
“No,” he says, hand reaching out to steady himself on the corner of the desk he knows the location of instinctively. “No,” he repeats and breathes out heavily. Opening his eyes, he meets his own, reflected back in the full body length mirror opposite him. He stares at himself, hair pushed carefully back to show his face, the softened lines of sharp bones running from his jaw to shape his face, the cheekbones that form into rounded laughing cheeks when humored and the eyes which are clear and bright. Striking, he’s been told.
Lips pink and glistening, fingertips brushing over them in silent evaluation, breath warmly ghosting over them. So, so similar but not the same.
Never the same.
He is not the same.
The smiling face of Yifan slips into his mind, phantom feeling of his hands around Luhan’s, brushing over the planes of his face and down the sides of his neck, warm and kind and gentle. Breathing deeply, Luhan opens his eyes, looking around the room. His fingers feel the ghosting touch of firm bone and muscle, toned body despite almost delicate gesture and, a small frown creasing his features, he pulls his shirt swiftly from his head, turning to the mirror and examining.
The tightness is back, the raw feeling that closes around his throat as his eyes travel up and down the smooth expanse of skin, the stretch of bone and the lightest suggestion of muscle, not truly formed and showing the barest hints. The small portion that rests in his gut turns, writing up and seizing into him as his eyes follow his fingers and their brushing trail over skin that prickles to the cool air of the room.
He is fine. Everything in his life is fine. Fine
Breaths choke in his mouth as the walls bend, closing in and with a sharp breath in, Luhan’s hands push to grip into his hair, eyes squeezing shut and closing out the image of himself. His knees lock as his heart begins to pound and he pushes out the anxious grate over every inch of himself.
Fine. Fine. Fine. Fine fine fine fine
has never been the accepted state.such a wonderful boy
His lip nearly bleeds as his teeth dig into it harshly, keeping himself from screaming out at the voice that whispers along the back of his mind. Luhan focuses, forcing his mind to cooperate, to stop and to correct. Accept, resolve, remember what is important and keep everything together even when falling apart internally.
With a deep breath in, his heart still jumping too fast, Luhan steels himself, eyes still closed and swallowing down the horrific stick in his throat as his skin crawls. Straightening until his back is straight, a rod up his spine of stability, he raises his head, facing across the room and opens his eyes.
He looks back, his eyes clear and strong and the solid feeling that slips into his chest as him letting out a stable breath as he calms.
He’s not fine. He’s better than that.◦❀◦
When the cracks begin, they’re small. At first no one notices, no one does with hairline cracks and the beginnings of failure when they don’t want to see it. But they’re there, spreading like spider silk just under the vision though Luhan can feel them.
He can feel them in between the words, in the touches and they cling to his skin just like the same spider silk, catching and making him feel sticky and dirty, irritated and the bones in his fingers lock as they clench at the sensation.
Time and time again it’s nothing but questions. Answer upon answer never enough and he wants space, needs space, the constricting intimacy far less comforting than it was, the need to breathe, to gasp for air and let it engulf him, embracing his skin rather than gentle hands. He breathes, settling back instead into the warmth that should reassure him.
He doesn’t mean for it to come out as short as it does, there’s no reason for him to be terse but at the same moment he can't bring himself to particularly care. It’s been slowly developing, to the point that Luhan wonders when it began, when the cracks first formed and how he didn’t notice them sooner. The nagging in his mind tells him he was blind, that they were always there and he was too foolish to take notice of them. Foolish. Stupid.
“Are you feeling okay?” Yifan asks, his brows creased in concern and the look has irritation flaring in Luhan, spiking hot up his chest, wanting to push back, shove away but he doesn’t. There isn’t a reason to.
“I’m fine,” he says and the word turns sour on his tongue. He’s always fine, always has been fine. He can be so much more.
He deserves so much more.
Yifan’s expression flickers. “Are you sure? You-“
“I said I’m fine,” Luhan repeats, ignoring the taste of the word as it sandpapers over his teeth. “So I’m fine.” He sighs as Yifan pulls back, shock on his face and Luhan knows it’s the wrong behavior. The wrong thing to say and do and not what he’s depicted as; not how Yifan knows him. “Sorry,” he says, the word softer. “I’ve just been a bit stressed lately. I have a lot on my mind.”
Rather than the soft silence of peace, a hand gently takes his own, offering support and strength in the press of fingers over his, holding it and him by synthesis. When Luhan looks up, Yifan is smiling at him, a gentle soft and sympathetic expression on his face, sweet and simple and with affection that Luhan’s chest seizes at. It’s not a normal reaction.
Yifan is his boyfriend. He likes Yifan, he has for a while, has been attracted to him and finds him kind and nice and awkwardly amusing...
Yifan is his boyfriend who spends far too much time getting ready, gets over emotional at movies and music, whose style sense is sometimes repugnant and the jokes become less endearingly funny as Luhan listens to them. Yifan is his boyfriend and it’s fine, his hands resting around Luhan’s as he watches him. Yifan kisses him gently and carefully and it’s fine and the words grates in his mind as he looks at Yifan.
Some people will settle with fine, even going as far as to actively look for it, that stable and quiet medium where it is neither exceptional nor substandard. It makes sense to simply accept that which works without fuss and never look beyond the walls and strive for excellence, strive for perfection and the absolute.
Fine was always the acceptable answer, the average C grade in school. Fine was always the position in the choir of school without solos or honorable mention. Fine is the settlement in life, accepting that to go further isn’t necessary.
Fine is boring and mundane.
Luhan isn’t fine. Luhan is excellence, with impeccable manners, work ethic, platinum records academically and friends who adore him and awards and honors for his name. It has never been in his nature to pass for anything that he didn’t have to work for, that was the standard.
It’s always been that way, since he was young and when harsh words and treatment were directed at him for his appearance and soft pretty looks, he had focused. Easy targets will fall and life is never easy.
Cream rises to the top, perfect and rich in person, body and soul.
“Luhan?” Yifan watches him across the table and Luhan’s mind clicks through the lists that have instilled there for years, the standards that he nearly forgot as time crawled away with him dragging behind and looking at the past slowly fading behind him and tried to look for the future. Yifan isn’t bad, but he isn’t…
“I’m sorry,” Luhan says, pulling his hands from Yifan’s, the rush of cold against his skin sending a shiver over him. “I’m tired.”
They had barely spoken much, the usual easy conversation stilted between words and the spidering cracks that just deepen, slowly beginning to form and visualize the longer Luhan looks.
“Okay,” Yifan says, standing after Luhan and waiting, watching as Luhan gathers his coat and bag, preparing to leave the restaurant they had been sitting in. It was nice, the atmosphere pleasant but not what he wants, not what he needs. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” He leans in, lips soft and sweet, almost too kind and caring as they press against Luhan’s in a familiar display of affection, his hand lingering at Luhan’s and holding him close.
“Tomorrow,” Luhan echoes before giving him a weak smile that feels tainted and walking from the restaurant.
The air nips at his skin, the mid October weather pinching at his skin as he walks brusquely through the campus, eyes steady forward and head held high. The air is clear and refreshing as he strides through it, the darker light of autumn casting shadows as Luhan passes his building and continues on.
A loud yelp greets him as he slams his fist against a familiar door, the old dark wood almost shaking as he makes his presence known. Opening swiftly, large eyes widen and blink at him in surprise. “Luhan,” Yixing says, obviously surprised as Luhan brushes past him, feeling the tightness in his muscles that can only mean is stress is manifesting. Physically. Relax. “What are you doing here?”
Letting out a grunt, Luhan drops his bag and flops onto Yixing’s bed, grabbing a pillow that so strongly smells of his best friend and burying his face into it. He groans loudly as he hears Yixing close the door quietly.
“I thought you were out with Yifan all night.” The mention of his boyfriend has Luhan letting out a sigh, wishing that weren’t the focus. It shouldn’t be the focus. He’s here, he’s Yixing’s best friend and that’s what’s important, not his dinner with his boyfriend that had begin to finally show to him what he was doing. “What happened?”
“I wanted to see you instead,” Luhan speaks into Yixing’s pillow, lifting his head a moment later to see Yixing’s skeptical face peering back at him from the chair he’s pulled up beside the bed. Luhan grins widely, rolling to shuffle back in the bed, creating room enough for two aside from himself. He waits for Yixing to join him.
“Is something wrong?” Yixing asks, his face shifting into that concerned look he had donned previously. Luhan can feel the curl in his chest that is the beginning of anxiety, not wanting Yixing to dwell like he knows he does more than anyone else.
“Nothing is wrong,” Luhan lies, reaching out and taking Yixing by the hand. It’s soft, smaller in his and fits easier, it’s more familiar and more practical. Not expected and just as unique and gentle as Yixing is. “I just wanted to see you.” He flashes a grin. “Didn’t you miss hanging out with me?”
Yixing’s eyes roll and he makes to pull his hand from Luhan’s grip, lips pressing into a line when Luhan tightens his grip and pulls, tugging Yixing into bed with him. He wants him, wants the comfort only Yixing can bring, pressed into his side like he has been so many times before, the only soft and gentle force Luhan ever needed.
Sometimes he forgets. With Yifan, for a moment, he forgot.
Smiling in triumph, Luhan wraps himself around Yixing when his friend tumbles into the bed with a huff, shifting and shoving Luhan to make room, grumbling at him before settling finally with a sigh. Eyes closed at the familiar feeling and sense of calm that comes from Yixing’s fingers gently drumming rhythms against his side, Luhan breathes and breathes easily.
“Do you want to talk about it?” Yixing asks, voice muffled against Luhan’s forehead, his lips brushing against hair and skin and Luhan would flinch away but he’s too relaxed, too tired curled up with Yixing. It’s been so long since they were like this, since he spent time like this with anyone but Yifan. It feels a waste and a cheat.
“Not really,” Luhan sighs. Yixing was the one who had pushed them together. It’s not his fault that it wasn’t right, just like they hadn’t been right either. Some things just aren’t supposed to last, Luhan reminds himself of this as Yixing tugs him closer.
“Can you tell me a little bit?” Yixing asks, voice softer as his fingers stop drumming and instead his hand runs along his side gently, soothing away the clinging feeling of cobwebs and cracks along a perfectly painted surface.
A deep breath in, filling his lungs before he lets it out, expelling the dust of flaws and imperfections from him and into the air, the cobwebs of ‘just fine’ leaving him. “It just wasn’t okay.”
Yixing stills. “Did he hurt you?” he asks, voice sharper and Luhan’s eyes open, pulling back to look at Yixing’s face. He looks stern, far more than Luhan has seen him ever in the past. His eyes flicker between Luhan’s rapidly and the beat of Luhan’s heart swells gently at the concern, the affection, and investment Yixing has in him. Protective of him when he doesn’t have to be.
Luhan can take care of himself. He lets out a ghosting laugh. “No,” he says, settling back into Yixing with a light sigh. “No, he didn’t hurt me.”
Yixing doesn’t push, instead murmuring about nothing and everything Luhan never needs to pay attention to, his fingers gently rising to card through his hair, lulling him it into a sense of peace and calm, drifting along the lines of sleep until he slips under.◦❀◦
The judgment is uncalled for. It may not entirely be judgment, not pure and pulsing with every beat of a heart in the woman’s chest but the concept is there and that’s enough to have a rush of irritation. This is a safe environment. There should be no judgment.
“You broke up with your boyfriend?” Luhan almost sneers at her, mocking the question for it’s stupidity. He had just said as much, there is no need to restate what he had already made plain and clear.
“Yes,” he answers instead, keeping his eyes fixed on the spot just over her shoulder. “I broke up with him.”
“How?” A pen scratches gently over a paper and categorizes him into a specific condition with a specific treatment and a pattern of speech to conform to it.
“I told him we should stop seeing each other.”
“And what did he do?” she asks, voice even and calm, practiced and horrifically soothing as it washes over the room, sliding in and out of the silence, breaking it and putting it back together.
“I don't know,” Luhan says, sitting back in the couch and letting himself relax on it. He doesn’t often relax here, not in the space where he’s been confined, been compartmentalized as needed to belong within by those who don’t know him. Those who unfortunately have an impact on his life and his decisions despite the impracticality of it.
The pen stops in mid scratch of lines over the paper. “What do you mean you don’t know?”
The hiss of judgment that snaps at him, lashing at the space where his heart is and snapping it’s teeth at him, viciously. He watches her face, her eyes on him level and calculating and he nearly sneers, bares his teeth and waits to see her reaction. Find something wrong with him, find something abnormal aside from the boring nonsense she’s been spoon feeding him with an audiobook voice.
“I messaged him.”
To: Fan Fan - I’m sorry. But it’s over.
Fan Fan - … why? :c
To: Fan Fan - it’s not working. we aren’t working. and you use weird emoticons
“You broke up with your boyfriend by sending him a text?” The question almost makes him proud, the restatement of the inquiry making the reality that much more vivid. The stretch of freedom along his limbs, the taste of it on his tongue as he eats without wondering when his phone will buzz and the when he’ll be expected to talk.
“Yes,” he says, casual and uncaring. It happens all the time, relationships ending with the simple transmission of written type over a phone screen. He isn’t ashamed. Instead a the feeling in his chest anything but shame related.
“Why did you use a text message?”
“I just didn’t want to see him,” Luhan says, irritation crawling over his skin, the burn in his chest intensifying as he thinks of the long stream of texts still resting in his phone, the last line of his own reply buried within a long stream. Asking why. Asking to talk. Luhan doesn’t want to, doesn’t need to be weakened by it. “It was clean and quick.”
“Are you sad at all?”
“About what?” Scratch along the sides of his mind and stick into his skin like knives.
“About ending your relationship with your boyfriend.”
“No,” Luhan says, voice hard and firm and resolution sticking to the word. The sink in his chest to his stomach, solidifying as it travels, must be his decisive. It was the correct choice, it was the right thing to do. It wouldn’t have gone anywhere, the steady plateau never moving and progressing into a spiral of boredom and repetition.
“What was wrong?” she asks. Each question is timed perfectly, the spaces between words exactly as they are meant to be said, offering the appropriate listening time for their target. It wouldn’t be that hard to mimic, the temptation to begin asking questions in the same dulled and emotionless manner tickling at him.
“It was just wrong,” Luhan sighs, legs crossing as he settles a bit further into the couch. “It’s for the best.”
She pauses, her actions calculated as she reaches to the desk just behind her, taking a sip of water as she watches him, actions careful. Luhan watches her movement, waiting. “He didn’t make you happy.” The inflection of a question is implied.
“Not enough,” Luhan says, testing out the slow methodical placement of speaking that she does, trying to lull his voice in a lower relaxing timbre.
“So what does make you happy, Luhan?”
The gears in his mind slow, the lists stop running and the absent categorization, the observing of his therapist and her black nylon stockings, hair down today as he cascades over her shoulders slowing down. He looks at her, the sunlight streaming in from the windows around them, highlighting the dust particles in the air and changing the colors of everything though brilliant illumination.
He can’t answer.◦❀◦
The line clicks dead, the burning feeling along the edge of his mouth increasing as the screen lights in the termination of the call. His feet continue on the same path as they had been moments before, voice in his ear and digging into his skull as he listened rather than spoke. Looking up, Luhan pockets his phone, pushing down the nagging feeling that seems to come from most of the conversations with his mother these days.are you still dating that boy?
no. oh, that’s too bad.
Shaking himself mentally, he strides to the campus café, pushing the thoughts that float about his mind to the back, where they belong and where he will sort them later. Not now, not when he has other things to be doing.
Minseok is waiting for him, a second Americano beside him as his own cup sits waiting in his hands. He smiles easily up at him, the chair next to his empty and intended for Luhan obviously. “You’re early,” Minseok says as Luhan sits down, taking the coffee gratefully and letting the black bitter liquid slip past his lips and into his system.
“Punctual,” Luhan says easily, sitting back and letting the taste of the coffee linger in his mouth, appreciating the bitter flavor. It calms him down, helps him think and allows him to focus, mind clearing. “Besides, I said I would be here, and here I am.”
“For once,” Minseok scoffs and Luhan smiles at him despite the look thrown in his direction. “Good to see you after this time though. You kind of… vanished for a while.”
“I’m here now though,” Luhan points out as Minseok takes another sip of his drink, the milk foam of the cappuccino sticking to his upper lip. “And I’ll be there on Friday. I promised.”
“I hope you will be,” Minseok says, a meaningful look in his eyes as looks at Luhan beside him. The conversation isn’t light, moving into the darker heaviness that it did at the end of last term when Minseok had stopped smiling as often at him and started watching instead. Luhan swallows.
“He’s my best friend,” Luhan says. “I promised him I would go, and I will. This is important.”
“I’m glad you realize that,” Minseok says, though he doesn’t specify which part he is referring to. Luhan watches him, running over the lines of his face, the curve of his nose, his jaw, and the sharp defined brows above his almond eyes. Handsome, in his own peculiar way. “He’s been working so hard for it. I swear he doesn’t sleep anymore, which, knowing him, is scary.”
“As long as he’s able to shower,” Luhan says, lips to the rim of his coffee and Minseok laughs at that. Luhan smiles.
“I’m pretty sure even that is taking a secondary position to the showcase,” Minseok tells him, his fingers gently sliding over the rim of his cup, gentle and calculating. “But then, everyone is getting ready for the middle of the semester.” He glances up, meeting Luhan’s eyes. “How are you doing? I didn’t even hear from you around Midterms.”
It hadn’t really registered, the passing of the exam session, the general scheduling and organization of his life having just swept him in stride. The hand of Yifan at his back and himself prodding the other awake when he nodded off during the long study hours. He blinks, keeping the frown from his lips as Minseok watches him.
“Same as always,” Luhan replies easily and Minseok chuckles again, lips spreading in a wide smile.
“Deans list again, then.”
Luhan can’t help but to smile, the familiar letters and notifications on his wall and in folders, stacked away to take and remind him of himself. To remind him of all that he does and all that he can do. The proof of hard work. Of exception.
“What else would I be on?”
Luhan laughs, the response automatic despite the sour twist that corkscrews it's way over him and digs into the back of his tongue. Minseok smiles, as if pleased with his answer and Luhan pushes it back, back into the chasm where it all goes and waits for sorting later. Waits for him to organize it later, to look at it all later.
“Sure,” Luhan forces the jest. “I’m that type.”
“I never want to see you on drugs,” Minseok laughs into his drink. “It’d possibly the be worst combination of human and substance ever. You drunk is enough for me to tolerate.”
“So kind of you to tolerate me,” Luhan prods back, elbowing him a bit and earning a crooked smile. “What time is the performance tomorrow?” Minseok gives him a slightly annoyed incredulous look and Luhan laughs, enjoying the play of emotion and accepting futility that spans over his friends face. “Kidding. I know it’s at eight.”
“Seven,” Minseok corrects with a small huff and Luhan grins at the reaction, goading. “Shut up,” grumbles at him and he laughs again. The laughing and calm chatting, just friendly and teasing as it always is when he’s with Minseok, is soothing, bringing him back from the clipped tone of his mother’s voice into his ear and his own words being swallowed. “Get there early. We need good seats.”
“Are you bringing any banners?” Luhan asks, the projected image of Yixing on stage and moving to music that seeps from speakers as he is the only thing lit amid blackness. “Something that Yixing will see in the middle of his routine and know you love him.”
“We’re going to a dance showcase, not a pop concert,” Minseok scoffs at him, though Luhan knows from the light in his eyes that he’s amused. “But if you feel so inclined as to make yourself a ‘I love Zhang Yixing’ banner with lots of hearts, far be it for me to stop you.”
“I don’t judge,” Luhan says, holding up a hand in mock surrender and Minseok laughs again.
“You say that,” he muses as he takes another sip of his cappuccino, shaking his head later as he sits back.
Smiling, Luhan raises his own drink to his lips, the warm bitter liquid flooding his mouth as his eyes sweep over the café. Rarely empty and the perfect spot for observing, for seeing or being seen, waving to those recognized or familiar, his eyes pause on a table in the far corner. His smile, which had been so easy spread over his lips, fades, faltering as he takes in the familiar form sprawled in the chair, nose buried in a large book on what Luhan assumes would be post modern literature with a cap backwards on his head.
“Luhan?” Minseok turns to see what has captured Luhan’s attention and stills. Luhan waits, his attention lingering, pushing over the thoughts in his mind, wondering if Yifan saw them, saw him. Waiting for him to look up, for their eyes to meet and to see the flicker in them that he knows so well, that he can read and catch the glimpse of longing in them from across the café. “Luhan, you’re staring.”
Yifan doesn’t look up, his attention absorbed in the book before him and Luhan’s tongue pokes out of his lips to run along them, wetting them from the dryness and tasting bitter coffee. “Sorry,” he says, voice disconnected as his gaze lingers. He doesn’t want him, not anymore. The time when he had passed a few weeks ago and the necessity to hold on and linger isn’t present when he had been the one to walk away.
It’s always easier to be the one who breaks up than to be broken up with, people will say. It’s easier to break a heart than to have your heart broken, people will say. The hard part in a break up is moving on, people will say.
Luhan sits in the café and watches as Yifan reads, feeling nothing of the connection he had once, the softness or the longing that so many might expect him to feel deep within himself for the man across the room. The nostalgia which would grip into him in a moment like this with such a familiar scene presented. He only waits, expecting for eyes to meet as Minseok’s frown deepens.
“You’re creepy, man,” Minseok says, pulling Luhan from his thoughts, from his patiently waiting for Yifan to look over. He never did.
“I’m not creepy,” Luhan says before turning to him and tilting his head down, smiling as he does so. Minseok immediately winces, turning away from the expression and making a disturbed whine, making to shove at him.
“Don’t do that, you look horrible,” Minseok complains at him, shoving him in his chair, hand pressing firm against his shoulder and Minseok delights at it. “Come on.” He shoves Luhan once more, earning a loud laugh that echoes through the café and has a few eyes flickering in their direction. “I want to get dinner before it gets too late. Still up for that game of soccer?”
“Of course,” Luhan says, standing with Minseok and tugging his bag over his shoulder easily, the books weighing down the stray to dig into his shoulder. “I haven’t changed my mind about that.” Minseok smiles and, as they step from the café, Luhan’s eyes flicker over to Yifan. He doesn’t look up, doesn’t look at him, doesn’t even seem aware of his existence, and it lights a flash of irritation through his heart as he turns away and smiles at Minseok as if nothing had changed.◦❀◦
The darkness of the auditorium mixes, drawing all focus to the stage where all seats face, the stage itself raised slightly out of necessity, pit dug before it and the lights, hazed in violets and indigo, begin to pool on the wooden floor. The seats are soft, pleasant and do not distract from the onset of the performance on stage, the first dancers, stepping out from the side stages hidden by hanging black curtains quiet and swift in their movements. Silent, aside from the slowly building music that spreads through the room and builds as the synthesized melody begins to form, they move.
Luhan has always admired dancers, himself graceful on his feet but nothing like when he watches the stage, the people moving in fluid connected movement, music swelling into something of beauty. He’s never exactly understood the concept of performance art, body art and the modern displays of emotion and creation, but dance is different.
Dance always has something which is impressive, which is unique and enrapturing, which is beautiful. The company spreads between the different numbers, Yixing finally stepping onto stage on the second music change. As with all performances, the second he moves onto the stage, feet touching the floor, his entire self changes.
A metamorphosis from a laughing and silly teasing friend into an emblem of physical beauty, stepping light over the stage with soundless feet, muscles tensing, spinning and flexing as the air parts for him to find his place within it. Raw talent, honed by years of dedication and conditioning his body has him breathtaking on the stage, Luhan sitting in silence and eyes following him as he dances, the music complimenting him rather than the other men and women around him.
As the dance shifts, moving through the music and the sequencing, the other dancers occupy Luhan’s attention, the girls all with hair down and flying about them, all of the performers in black tight pants, flashes of color just in small pieces of fabric as black shirts cling to the lines of torsos and chests, defining the perfect shape of the human body.
The girl at the front of the stage spins, her spine curving as she bows into the movement, her body pure energy that pulsates from the line where the stage lights end and the audience begins. Her lips are painted light pink, open as she breathes, eyes rimmed in black and drawing to her face as her long hair whips across her shoulders.
In a flash, she pulls back from the edge, bringing all attention with her as she draws back, her hand reaching out and taken by another, gentle and waiting for her, bringing her close to a man Luhan has never seen before. Tall, strong shoulders clad in a black tank that fits so close to his body it seems painted to his tanned skin, full lips parted as his eyes train on the girl in intensity. His movements are unlike anything Luhan has seen.
He’s new, tall and strong and standing out from the other dancers as he glides over the stage and captures Luhan’s attention, unable to take his eyes away for long even as Yixing reenters the stage and dance. He presses his lips tight, the tug of curiosity in his mind and spreading through him having his fingers clench together in his lap over carefully folded legs.
The young man spins, raw energy and passion and less precision than Yixing but something about the overwhelming energy has Luhan struck far more than when watching his friend. He’s utterly beautiful.
“He’s really good,” Minseok’s voice, hushed to a whisper, sounds right beside Luhan’s ear, startling him to flinch slightly away from the proximity even as his eyes flicker to the new dancing boy. “He really has been working hard and it shows off.”
Yixing. Minseok is talking about Yixing. Their friend, dancing and displaying his hard work and effort on stage in a captivating performance, center stage and spinning with control and power. Luhan’s eyes flicker to him, training for a moment before the catch on the other and can’t look away.
“Yeah,” he says, swallowing down a dry through that is strange in the well conditioned auditorium.
The performance goes by faster than it seems, the dances moving seamlessly from the group numbers to the solos and duets. Luhan’s attention wanders between the moving figures on stage, following the lines of backs, legs, arms, and the breathes releasing into the air. His eyes linger, flickering between the form of his best friend and the nameless young dancer who seems to take up the whole stage as he flies out.
“Holy shit,” Minseok breathes beside him when the beat kicks up and the girls flee from the stage leaving only Yixing and the other man. The two dancers trade a look as the unmistakable faster beat increases in volume and the two suddenly snap into a routine. Minseok’s lips just brush the shell of Luhan’s ear as he sits, captivated. “Did you know he was doing a duet?”
“No clue.” Mind in a lulled daze, Luhan watches, the controlled and sharper movements, snapping and popping, the two men on stage perfectly rehearsed and in sync, trading a few looks. They look planned but something in the ease and spike in energy that rolls of the stage tells Luhan there is more there, a closeness.
The flare of heat in his chest has him inhaling sharply, his eyes on the two dancers, drawn to the performance as Yixing dances, his partner beside him and Luhan wants more of it.
As the bass rhythmically beats through the expansive room, the music picking up and the rest of the dance company returns to the stage, Luhan wonders how well Yixing knows his dancing friend. Wonders if he could introduce them and if the man smiles as pretty with friends as he does standing at the edge of the stage, hands clasped with the other dancers, and beaming at the applause that rings out.
The students, faculty, scattering of parents, and others all mingle and loiter around the front of the auditorium doors, chattering and musing over the performance. Luhan and Minseok are joined by Sunyoung and Suji, two members of Luhan’s ethics and debate seminar from the previous year. ‘That was amazing,” Sunyoung says, voice bright and smile brighter on her pretty face, cheeks flushed as she looks between Minseok and Luhan. “I can’t believe they managed to get that whole thing together in just two months!”
“Impressive,” Minseok agrees with a good natured smile as Luhan nods, his own smile on his lips as his eyes flicker between the girls and the crowd, looking. “I thought all of the choreo was really well done, and the concept they chose for the whole thing was-“
“Luhan!” Turning sharply, a wide and bright smile spreads over his face as he sees Yixing pushing through the crowd, flushed and exhilarated as he practically beams. He still has his make up smeared over his skin, bleeding at the edges of his eyes and sweat beads at his hairline and dampens his shirt and hair but Luhan doesn’t hesitate to pull Yixing into a hug. “You came!” Yixing’s voice is higher, pitched in excitement from the show and his joy in seeing his friends, smile beautiful and near euphoric on his face as he looks at the others waiting to congratulate him.
“Of course we came,” Luhan laughs, shaking Yixing slightly in his arms, careful to not aggravate his waist. He remembers, from years ago when watching Yixing first in the studios and the wince on his face. He remembers that at least. “I wouldn't want to miss your first performance of the year.” Yixing glows at the words. “You did an amazing job. I swear, you stole the show. Never gave the other dancers a chance.”
“Ya!” Yixing says, pushing him away with a laugh, peals of amusement falling from his lips as he continues to laugh. Luhan smiles at it, the sound so good to hear from his friend who has looked so worn from the last few weeks. “I was only in half of the numbers.”
“You stood out so much I didn’t notice the others,” Luhan tells him with a laugh and Yixing’s cheeks darken as he scoffs and shakes his head, shoving Luhan away before his hands come to wrap around Luhan’s waist habitually. “I tell you no lies.”
“Shush,” Yixing tells him as Minseok smiles at the dancer, now leaning his head gently against Luhan’s shoulder as some of the adrenalin leaves him. “Thank you guys for coming.”
“We wouldn’t miss it,” Minseok says, smiling himself as he reaches forward and clasps Yixing by the shoulder. “Honestly, you just keep outdoing yourself with all of these performances. And I read in the program you choreographed half of the performance itself?”
Yixing laughs, the exhaustion beginning to lace into his voice as he pulls away from Luhan, the warmth receding and Luhan shifts, his hand resting at the small of Yixing’s back gently as he glances around. A sea of strangers faces and heads in the way. “Yeah,” Yixing says, Luhan only half listening to the conversation. “I got to work with our main choreographer and Jongin on a few of them.”
“Was he the one you choreographed the duet with?” Sunyoung asks, her voice avid with curiosity and it pulls Luhan’s focus back to the conversation. He catches Yixing’s nod and smile just in time and heat skitters over his skin. “That was amazing. I don't think I’ve ever seen anyone dance like that before.” Yixing laughs, the red on his cheeks spreading and deepening, bright against his usually pale skin.
“He’s really talented,” Yixing says, gently brushing at the fringe of perspiration on his face with the back of his hand. “We’re really lucky to have him.”
“You choreographed the duet with him?” Luhan asks, turning Yixing’s attention back to himself.
“It was in the program,” laughs Suji as Yixing’s eyes widen. “Didn't you read it?”
“We got here a little late,” Luhan explains as Yixing’s expression calms a bit, settling though his eyes flicker.
“By that, Luhan means he got here late.” The clarification from Minseok has his lips pressing in a line, eyes still fixed on Yixing as the dancer’s eyes flash over him quickly. “I got here on time and got us front row seats.”
“Third row,” Luhan corrects, sliding his hand up Yixing’s spine gently, the heat radiating from Yixing’s still hot from dancing body warming his fingers and spreading through him. He’s curious. “We were in the third row.”
“Far better seats than if I’d waited for you to choose,” Minseok throws back and Yixing lets out a laugh, Suji joining him as he smiles and Luhan’s smile crooks gently. “I told you to be on time.”
“I was on time,” Luhan insists as Yixing leans back into his hand. He’s tired, Luhan can read it in the lines around his mouth and the dark circles slowly revealing as the make up around his eyes fades. He reaches out, brushing his thumb absently under Yixing’s eyes, earning a small jerk back initially but then Yixing relaxes, letting Luhan gently clean his face. “I promised I would come.”
Yixing’s eyes flicker, meeting Luhan’s as they flash over his face, a searching glint in them and Luhan smiles. Just as he always has. As he always will at Yixing, because he knows what it means. “You promise a lot of things,” Yixing says and it makes Luhan’s smile falter, his hand pausing as it rests just brushing Yixing’s face. But then Yixing is turning, smiling brightly at the others all watching him curiously. “Anyway, I have to go change and check up with a few others. Can I catch you up in the dining hall?”
“It’s so late though, you should sleep,” Sunyoung says, a note of concern in her voice as Minseok nods along with her in agreement.
“I’d rather get something to eat,” Yixing laughs, stepping back and away from them, brushing his hair from his face.
“Who else do you have to talk to?” Luhan asks, looking after his friend, wondering who Yixing might have to talk to aside from them. He knows he has other friends, people from his classes, from the dance company, but he hadn’t seen them here and Yixing just spent the last few weeks with no one but the dance company so-
“Just people,” Yixing says, the answer far too vague to settle easily with Luhan and he frowns. “I want to check up with Jongin.”
“The dancer?” Luhan’s pulse skips and he feels it jolt in his wrists, tingling through his fingers gently. The murmur of the crowd around them tunes out as their conversation focuses and narrows. Minseok is watching him, the girls chattering about something to the side and out of focus.
“Why don't we get to meet your dancer friends?” Luhan asks, stepping to follow him, a pout pushing at his lips, making them fuller. “You keep them all to yourself. What happened to sharing?”
“Why do you care?” is clipped as it leaves Yixing’s lips and Luhan stops short. Yixing looks away. “You never cared about my other friends before, what’s so special about Jongin.”
“I’m just curious,” Luhan says, stepping forward and to Yixing as easy as he can and with a concerned tug to his lips. The look and shift in Yixing worries him, not expecting Yixing to act like this, to push back so harshly. “You two looked so good on stage and were so cool together I just want to congratulate him too and thank him for his hard work.” He tries to grin.
Yixing doesn’t. “You never were this curious about my other friends, even when I talked about them to you and tried to get you to meet them. You didn’t even listen or remember about Yifan until after you-“
“What has he got to do with anything?” Luhan interrupts, the mention of the name throwing him off guard and unbalanced, whipped back and out of place. His mood tips, turning down as his mind flashes over things that just were and never progressed much, stale before they were fresh. Yifan was safe, he wasn’t anything exceptional.
The smoky eyes and glistening tan skin that shines in the lights and screams of pure raw talent and ability. The true manner of exception and something to admire. Luhan fingers twitch as his pulse throbs.
“He doesn’t.” Yixing isn’t smiling at all now.
Luhan sighs, nothing wanting to argue right now, when there are people everywhere, watching or with the potential to, with Minseok behind him and with Yixing tired and sweaty, worked up after a long performance. After weeks of training, Yixing is tired and not thinking straight.
Not all things work out, even if Yixing had thought he and Yifan were good together, it didn’t mean they were. Not all things work out, Yixing should know this the best of all. Right now, Luhan doesn't want to fight with him, to make him uncomfortable about this, to push him when he’s already so fragile.
Luhan has to be strong and understand, assume the proper role as his friend and companion. “I’m sorry,” he says, trying to smile and Yixing’s expression softens. The lines around his face are etched deep, hours of exhaustion and lack of sleep from a body that already has so much strain on it. Yixing sighs, stepping back further and it pulls at Luhan. “Yixing.”
“It’s fine,” sighs back as Yixing turns, offering another smile to Minseok and the girls. “I’ll see you in the dining hall?”
Minseok doesn’t look at him when Luhan steps back to the small group, instead engaged with Suji in a conversation about the dance team as Sunyoung listens avidly. Luhan listens along, his eyes drifting over the crowd. He leans in occasionally, listening in for the conversation and keeping with the flow, tongue poking gently at his lips to keep them from drying out as his eyes flicker to try to catch a glimpse of black hair, tanned skin, and eyes set in smoke.◦❀◦
The lecture is winding to a close, the professor smiling at them all as the questions begin to pour in, nodding to students with their hands raised and explaining what they inquire. His hands rest on the desk, observing his class and his eyes linger for a moment on the front row, making a smile widen on Luhan’s face as he notices the attention on himself. He’s a week ahead, final project for the class finished and passed in and the congratulatory and approving words from the professor at the beginning of the class had left him feeling proud.
“Always ahead,” Soojung half whispers from beside him, a slanted smirk on her face as she glances over at his notes.
“You could be too if you put in the effort,” Luhan tells her, looking from the professor to his fellow classmate. She’s very pretty, capturing the hearts of the other men in the class easily with her confidence and sex appeal. Luhan hadn’t found it hard to talk to her, unlike he’d heard some of the other men whispering about.
“I prefer to keep sane,” Soojung says, her tongue curling behind her teeth as her eyebrows raise nonchalantly. “I have other things to do beside class work and a few Student government duties.”
“A cappella is hardly life preparing extra-curricular activity,” Luhan informs her as the professor dismisses them, the chairs scraping back as the class makes to leave. Luhan pushes himself up easily, straightening himself and fixing his jacket as it hangs from his shoulders. “Truly vigorous and taxing.” He nods to the professor who smiles and speaks a brief moment of praise, thanking Luhan for getting his paper in so punctually.
“Show off,” Soojung sighs as Luhan smiles perfectly at the professor and she walks to the door.
“Not a show off,” Luhan corrects her, striding easily from class and catching his reflection in the windows. He absently fixes his appearance, the transparent image of himself setting back into immaculately groomed acceptability. He smiles, winking at himself and catches Soojung rolling her eyes behind him. “I’m just flawless.”
“Have you seen yourself when you laugh?” Soojung asks, scoffing slightly as Luhan straightens his shoulders and walks from the room with her. He frowns slightly at the comment. “That’s anything but flawless. I’ve seen goats more attractive than you laughing.”
“You really know how to flatter a guy,” Luhan tells her and the smile she throws back at him speaks of true indifference. Soojung is different, harder than most of the girls he knows who tend to open up to him before he’s ready to listen and lean in fascinated as he speaks. It’s jarring to be with her, irritating sometimes, but it works in a strange sort of way in that she’s one of the only girls who can take some of his humor.
“Why do you think I have so many boyfriends?” she asks, a smirk on her lips as she throws her long black hair over her shoulder with practiced ease.
Luhan laughs, surprising himself as he shakes his head. The two of them make a bit of a pair, sharing only a few classes but being the center of the stares; the beauties of the classes he heard whispered once. Luhan isn’t a food, knows he’s handsome and given a definite advantage in his looks. He’d be an idiot to not realize that Soojung is gorgeous.
“Speaking of…” Soojung says, a beautiful smile spreading over her lips as she looks over Luhan’s shoulder at someone and Luhan turns, expecting to see one of the many nameless suitors which Soojung seems to keep on a rotation. His breath falters in his lungs when he recognizes the dancer, the one from the show with Yixing, smiling with a sort of childish happiness about him walking towards them. “Jonginnie!” Soojung waves, a light laugh tinkling into the air as her fingers wave cutely.
Luhan stands, not moving as Soojung pauses and waits for Jongin, as Luhan had remembered his name to be, to draw level with them. “Hello,” comes out in a smooth rich voice as dark brown eyes with full lashes glance at him, flickering to Soojung for a moment and Luhan can finally see Jongin up close. He’s gorgeous, smooth skin peppered only in a few spots with the remnants of teenage skin, full lips that looks soft and perfect and bone structure that Luhan himself is envious of.
“Do you not know each other?” Soojung asks, her tone mocking surprise as she looks between the two men before her. Jongin blinks and Luhan turns, feeling his skin prickling, to look at her.
“Not everyone knows each other,” he says, aware of Jongin shifting before him, standing tall and straight, his broad shoulders impressive. In the corner of his eye, he can see his face relaxed, indifference and vague disinterest on his features as he drags his full lower lip between his teeth. “Just because you do.”
“All this drama,” Soojung huffs, slapping Luhan on the arm with another roll of her eyes, the hit not that hard and more playful than anything. “Luhan, this is Jongin. He’s on the dance team with Yixing so it’s stupid you haven’t met him before.” Luhan flashes her a look that she sends back with a significant rise to one eyebrow. “Anyway, Jongin, this is Luhan. He’s a dick.”
Luhan coughs, not expecting the introduction from Soojung in the slightest, turning to her with a burn over his cheeks and shock in his system. She flashes back a smile, bright and cheerful as she pats him gently on the back in what may be assumed as a reassuring fashion. He turns to Jongin, who is looking at him with slightly widened eyes. “I’m not a dick,” Luhan says, extending his hand in greeting. “Just in case you were confused. Hi, Jongin. It’s nice to meet you.”
“Likewise,” is the soft and rich reply that greets him as Jongin’s hand, a light smile playing around his pretty mouth as his eyes shift into a warmth that seems to spill into the air around them. “Yixing has talked about you. Sometimes. Don’t mind Soojung so much, she just likes to have people think she’s scary and find out she likes the color pink too much.”
“Shut up,” Soojung says, though the venom isn’t in her voice as she swats Jongin on the arm and he laughs even as he flinches away slightly, stepping away fro her out and out of the line of attack. It’s cute.
“I actually saw the showcase,” Luhan continues, drawing Jongin’s eyes back to himself and smiling at him, feeling a draw towards him. He’s curious. Extremely curious about him and he wants to find out more. Jongin’s eyes widen. “It was amazing, you dance incredibly well.”
“I have to go,” Soojung announces, catching Jongin off guard and Luhan turns to her, missing the light pink that spreads over Jongin’s cheek as he looks at Soojung. She winks at him, the quirk to her lips telling him nothing but of her own excessive self-confidence. “I have to meet up with Song Qian for a project but I’ll see you for dinner?” She adds the last bit with a significant look at Jongin, shaking her hair from her face.
“I thought we were hanging out now,” Jongin says, the small frown forming between his eyebrows endearing, his face taking expressions well, is soft dark hair framing his face nicely.
“Change of plans,” Soojung says, already moving away, her heels clicking against the linoleum floor as she flashes Jongin and Luhan a brilliant smile. “Have Luhan entertain you instead. He’s interesting sometimes.”
“Thanks,” Luhan calls after her, knowing the snap in her tone and the brusque words mean very little. It’s just who she is. She blows him a kiss before spinning on her heel and walking away, down the hall and leaving Jongin to Luhan.
“I meant it, you know,” Luhan says, turning back to Jongin with a perfect smile stretching over his lips, charming and beautiful. The light dusting of rose against Jongin’s high cheeks is pleasant, something Luhan could get used to seeing and wanting to make happen more. “About the dancing.”
“Oh,” Jongin says, gasping out the word as if only just catching up to Luhan and his words. “Really?”
It’s very cute, flattering even how Jongin seems to stutter at the praise, his lips twitching up in a smile and completely unassuming about his own amazing talents. “Yeah,” Luhan says, shifting to an easier stance. “I don't think I’ve ever seen anyone dance like you dance. It was breathtaking, you looked beautiful up on stage.” He laughs, enjoying the darker definite blush that brushes over Jongin’s beautiful face. “Do you make a habit of that?”
Jongin blinks at him. “Of what?”
“Blushing when someone compliments you.” Eyes widening, Jongin opens his mouth, the onset of what Luhan is sure is either denial or sputtering unnecessary. “It’s fine,” he says, quickly. “I don’t mind. It’s cute.”
Jongin frowns briefly. “I’m not cute.” The lower jut of his lip speaks the opposite. “You’re the one everyone calls cute, even Yixing.” His eyes widen again as he realizes what he’s said, mouth snapping shut as Luhan’s brows rise.
“Am I?” he asks, more to himself but the blush on Jongin’s cheeks tells him all he needs to know and them more. ◦❀◦
It's not that hard this time, already having something in mind as he lets the sickly sweet taste of the drink in his hand slide down his throat to settle in his stomach and spider through his veins. Minseok isn't here tonight to give him looks that either are indifferent or disapproving and Yixing is already wasted, having been assaulted by his friends from the music department and making more noise than Luhan had ever though his best friend could at a party like this.
In other cases, Luhan might have joined them, but tonight, his eyes are elsewhere, his attention on other things. Other people.
"Hey." Jongin turns, looking surprised to be address and Luhan greets him with a smile, handing him one of the cool bottles of beer from the fridge. He has no idea if Jongin should be drinking, probably underage, but he doesn't really care now. Jongin is at the party and regardless of if he's underage, he'd still be drinking tonight. There is no getting around that.
"Hi!" Jongin says, a pleased and slightly hesitant spread of his lips flash teeth at Luhan that has him satisfied. "I didn't think I'd see you here." He laughs lightly. "I don't think I've seen you at the parties before."
"I pick and choose," Luhan says, stepping closer to Jongin as people push past him, letting himself ease nearer to the dancer under the pretext of consideration. "Usually I just tag along with Yixing to whatever parties he wants to go to, which is like throwing darts in the dark sometimes." He laughs. "Most often, Yixing would rather lie in his dorm room playing guitar or composing rather than go out and party hard."
"I don't blame him," Jongin replies with a smile before he falters, as if regretting the admission. "Not that I don't mind partying, I just don't do it much. I'm only here tonight because of friends." He gestures to the young man he had been talking with, a bright blond who smiles with a sort of plasticine essence about him. Jongin lets out a small laugh. "I guess we're both here because our friends have more interest in our social welfare than we do."
"Isn't that what friends are for?" Luhan asks. There's something about him, about the way that Jongin holds himself with amazing posture, shoulders back and eased, his already impressive build given more weight and appeal as he seems completely unaware of himself and the presence he holds. It makes Luhan envious but without the negativity he might associate with the feeling, more of in an admiration in that despite how Jongin seems so perfectly assembled and handsome, he's surprisingly soft and easy to speak with, nothing of the brash and radiating confidence Luhan saw on stage.
He rather likes Jongin as this far more than he was initially drawn to the enigma lit up in light and with eyes that spoke seduction rather than nothing but amusement and smiles.
It's easy to lose track of time with Jongin, Luhan pulling words from him as he gently strokes against the ego which is far smaller than he expected, Jongin making a few jokes which remind him vaguely of Yifan but they make far less sense, something about them innocently adorable. He stumbles around a little, seeming nervous as he tries to please, grabbing Luhan another drink when his friend, introduced as Taemin, asks for another. Luhan smiles as Taemin is forgotten once in the kitchen and Jongin instead begins telling him about himself.
It hadn't taken long to get him to open up, enough of Luhan listening and keeping his attention on him, asking the right questions and laughing, Jongin apparently finding him just as funny as Luhan finds himself. Jongin rambles when he talks, telling Luhan about his double major in music performance and economics and how his roommates are far too annoying for him to listen to his music over. He tells Luhan about his love of dance, his long history with it and how it makes him happy as Luhan notices how he never seems to be able to stop moving, small movements of his legs and his hands, the flush of excitement showing in his cheeks as he explains how music moves him rather than he moving to it.
"Do you know what it's like to have a constant soundtrack in life?" he asks, and Luhan finds himself drawn in, to the boy who is young but so full of life, so full of energy and spilling his heart out breathlessly.
"No," Luhan says, putting down his empty cup. It's been drunk for a while as he watched Jongin's mouth move and his eyes shine in the light of the room and intoxicated himself on that instead. "But maybe you can teach me sometime." That beautiful flush crawls over Jongin's cheeks at Luhan's words, his eyes flickering to Luhan's lips noticeably and a warmth nudges into Luhan's gut as a pink tongue pokes out to wet full lips.
"Sometime, yeah," Jongin says, dropping his gaze and his hands fidget before him. Luhan is pretty sure they'll make time.
The party swells and fades around them, the music changing and Jongin moving to it almost constantly. Luhan is attracted to him, staring down others that approach, that try to step into his time with Jongin and compromise his claim on the other boy. Jongin seems oblivious, only noticing nearly an hour after how Taemin, his best friend, had vanished. Luhan likes it better this way, Jongin's attention focused on him and curious, seeming surprised at points that Luhan is still there, talking with him, or just standing with him in comfortable silence as the warmth builds in him and the intoxicating feeling of Jongin's stronger presence beside him makes him heady.
It's past two in the morning by the time Luhan manages to get room on the couch, sitting down with Jongin and letting their thighs brush, the warmth of Jongin's body seeping into him and making his focus skip between Jongin talking sleepily about his friends and dance company, about his studies, and getting lost in the movement of his mouth and the deep hue of his eyes. Luhan doesn't realize Jongin has stopped talking until the light touch at his knee, pulling him to attention as he looks back at Jongin, who looks sleepy but is still here. His eyes droop and it does nothing but strengthen his allure, the warmth from his body increasing Luhan's as he feels a twist and in his chest and the itch in his fingers to reach forward and touch
"Luhan?" Jongin's voice is like velvet, deep and rich and husky with sleep as he looks at him in question, a small crease to his forehead and Luhan's breath shortens.
"Jongin," Luhan says, looking at the dancer before him, barely into his first college experience and reaches to wrap his fingers around Jongin's at his knee, the skin warm and surprisingly soft. Jongin's eyes flicker, never leaving his as his fingers move to grip back, to hold his tighter and it's exactly where Luhan wants them.
A soft gasp is all that leaves the young man's mouth, head tilting back as he looks up with parted lips and that beautiful flush on his face, skin warm, almost hot, under Luhan's hands as he cradles his face, thighs spread as he settles over Jongin's lap. The space he had previously sat seconds before beings to cool as he feels a rush of heat through him, the pull of Jongin swallowing him in just as he drinks down the soft moan from Jongin's throat as their lips meet and tan fingers clench into the shirt bunched at his waist.
Jongin tastes like beer and youth, the beautiful tainting of something once pure and in the process of being unmade, addicting against Luhan's tongue as he laps for more, fingers threading into soft brown hair and wanting more, needing more, eyes closed and feeling rather than seeing. Jongin lets out a sigh against Luhan's lips, hands warm and resting on his waist, keeping him there. He smiles, eyes hazy and the puff of breath against Luhan's lips has him knowing this isn't fine, this is far from it.
He smiles, leaning in to steal another breath.◦❀◦
"What did you do this week?"
He doesn't care. Restless today he fidgets, not caring about how he looks in the eyes of the woman before him and her nylons and navy pumps. He couldn't care less about what she thinks about him right now, if she noticed how his hair has been styled up and to the side perfectly or how his skin is flawless and cared for meticulously.
"Class." Who cares about answering. He has other things to be doing, other people he'd rather be spending his time with. Luhan has a 200 page reading assignment due next Wednesday sitting on his desk and an unanswered text message from Jongin in his phone which burns against his skin through his pocket.
"Anything else?" she asks, completely patient and Luhan wants to walk out, to leave the office and it's perfectly set furniture selected for ease and boring and nothing out of the ordinary, a place where he doesn't belong. Swallowed in the mundane when he should be out.
"Why does it matter?" He's so sick of this. It's habit now to come and sit for exactly 55 minutes but he's sick of it now and he hates being here almost as much as he hates the sickening jolt and seizure from looking down and seeing the world so far beneath him and waiting for him to rush up to meet it.
She blinks, the first time that he's ever seen a reaction from her. Almost, with a slight curiosity, he wonders if he can make her do it again. "Well, that's up to you. This time is for you. To talk about what you want and what you're comfortable with. This time is for you to talk about what you need to talk about. I'm not interviewing you Luhan and I don't want to hear anything from you I just want to listen."
"You're not being paid to listen." Money slowly trickling needlessly out of a bank account that isn't his and going for a stupid purpose. He nearly gets up, walks away, and leaves this nonsense. He has more important things to be.
"Sure I am." She's speaking differently today. Luhan isn't used to it and it's slightly jarring. His phone vibrates and his heart skips in his chest, a flash of a beautifully smiling face before his eyes. So handsome and so alive. "I'm paid to sit here and listen to what you have to say. If you don't want to talk, we can just sit here and I can talk, but I doubt you really want that."
"Because there are more important things in your life than hearing me talk about whether I like dogs over cats."
"I don't care between them."
"Because they're just animals." A brilliant smile as a cell phone background is shown with three puppies clustered on the screen, a deep voice rising in pitch as it gets excited and speaks too fast around the words and gushes over the animals on the screen. "Jongin likes dogs," is out of his mouth before he can stop the information.
"Who is Jongin?" barely a lapse in composure. But Luhan can't care, his mind spilling over itself.
"My boyfriend." Lips lush and full and pressed against his as kisses that seem far too breathless to be real lay against his mouth. "He likes dogs." A lot. He sighs at puppies and looks at them like he looks at Luhan sometimes, like he's so in love with him his heart might break at just a simple brush of air against it. It makes Luhan breathless.
"When did you meet him?"
Two weeks ago. At a party but he's a dancer who Luhan met at Yixing's dance performance and couldn't stop staring at. He's a freshman and handsome and likes to read comic books but also do things like go out on the weekends rather that lose himself in the endless cycle of campus parties and laughs at stupid television and his own jokes. He can't breathe for amusement at Luhan's humor and thinks he's a genius when he talks and constantly dreams of being something more than he is and never stops working hard to be amazing.
He's handsome and strong and always there when Luhan needs him, listening when Luhan talks and smiling when he's impressed, which is always. He kisses Luhan when he wants him to and holds his hand possessively to show everyone else that he's taken and lets Luhan touch him even when it's far beyond what someone might usually do.
It's been two weeks since Luhan climbed into a sleepy Jongin's lap and sealed their mouths together and swept Jongin off his feet and around his fingers, since Luhan's breath caught and drank in the lingering smell about the other man and felt alive when he spoke and reveled in how Jongin forgot about other people when Luhan was with him and he says all of this without realizing it. His therapist watches him, barely moving as she lets him speak and his words fall over themselves, his own enthusiasm curling up in his chest as he talks and feels brighter and stronger with each word.
"So, it sounds like he really likes you," she says, and she smiles, red tinted lips stretching in a pleasant pull and Luhan's breath fills his lungs completely. "Like you've found someone that really looks up to you."
"He does," Luhan says, smiling and not caring how large it is. It doesn't matter, he's excellent and someone sees him as such, someone looks at him and sees more than they've ever seen and Jongin is all his.
"And what do you think about him?" the next question drifts as Luhan's eyes return to her's, hidden behind the glasses perched on her nose perfectly. "Do you feel the same way about him?"
"He's my boyfriend," Luhan says, feeling a bit numb at the question.
"So you feel the same?"
It's a stupid question. "Sure." Brown eyes which watch him with a dedication and connection that stops his breath and makes his heart pound as he feels truly, entirely, amazing. ◦❀◦
"I'm right here." It's lunch. "Sitting here beside you." They're in one of the local restaurants surrounding the campus, the modern interior garish against the old wooden floor that needs polishing or refinishing, something to help it from it's current exhausted state. "In real life, in the real world as your real friend." His phone is in his hands and half a sandwich sits on the plate before him, barely touched and the dissected partner abandoned and crusts remaining. "Breathing and living and being completely ignored."
Luhan's fingers brush over the messages on his phone, the images, the words and the emoticons and the symbols of Korean text that he's learned to interpret as laughter and embarrassment. It's a translation exercise in commitment. "I'm not ignoring you," Luhan tells Minseok as he doesn't look up from his phone, waiting for the small yellow number at the edge of his latest text to disappear.
“This feels a lot like ignoring,” Minseok grumbles and Luhan jumps and scrambles as his fingers suddenly grab his phone from him, panic racing through him as it’s pulled out of his reach.
“Give that back.”
“What the hell is with this guy, anyway?” Minseok muses, looking over the phone and his fingers pushing along the screen, scrolling through messages as rushing begins in Luhan’s hears, his eyes on his phone. “Is he made out of pheromones or something? Yixing talks about him like an obedient puppy or something.”
“Yixing sings to himself and talks about garbage disposals being good dramatic tools in song lyrics,” Luhan snaps, grabbing his phone back swiftly and checking the messages. To ensure Minseok hasn’t done anything, his pulse calming as he sees nothing and then smiles when he sees the small number one missing. Good.
“But he is an excellent judge of people,” Minseok points out, still watching Luhan. Luhan wishes he’d back off, right now, he has other things on his mind
come join us
. Luhan’s foot taps absently against the ground, a new song and rhythm that he’d heard on the radio, Jongin moving absently beside him, close and skin brushing against his. “Even you say so yourself.”
Rather than answer, Luhan looks up, the message on the screen registering as he looks to the windows and scans through the glass for a familiar figure, barely noticing the shadows of the people in the small sandwich shop that reflect back to him in the weak December sun. He smiles as he sees a familiar figure walking into view.
Jongin’s eyes find him almost immediately upon stepping into the shop, his coat open and suggesting the weather to be much warmer than it is. Jongin runs hot, something that is so nice when Luhan comes to him after a taxing day and is able to press his hands to his firm chest.
His hands are always warm as they wrap around Luhan’s, lips soft as they press against his and body strong and toned as Luhan’s hands run over it.
It’s been two and a half weeks.
Across the table, Minseok’s eyebrows are raised at him in a mix of expressions Luhan doesn’t have the patience nor time to bother deciphering. “Do you ever wear enough clothing?” Luhan asks, his eyes settling on the lines of Jongin’s well sculpted chest under his shirt, his collarbones impressive and shoulders perfectly broad and defined.
A vision of a person, sculpted and crafted by hands that could hardly be human and with a heart so sweet and caring it threw Luhan initially when he first really talked to Jongin and listened, willing himself not to be distracted by the gently touch of Jongin’s hand on his arm.
Jongin greets him with a kiss, knowing from very little time that it’s what Luhan expects. touch me prove i’m real
“It’s not that cold out,” Jongin says, looking at Luhan and only Luhan as he smiles and makes to sit down, coat already shrugging down his arms. He’s so graceful, sinking into the chair as if built to do nothing but move with the appearance of effortless grace. “Plus, I was only outside for a short time. It’s not like I needed a lot of layers.”
“Your boyfriend is inhuman,” Minseok says under his breath. Luhan looks to him, his friend wearing two layers and his coat still wrapped around his shoulders, hat and gloves sitting on the table beside him. Minseok never took cold that well. “Hi,” says Minseok, noticing the attention on him, his eyes flickering to Jongin. “Minseok. Don’t know if you remember me.”
“You’re one of Luhan’s friends,” Jongin says, seated with his thigh brushing Luhan’s under the table and his fingers finding Luhan’s, out of sight and twining together. “I remember.”
“Good boy,” Luhan teases, brushing Jongin’s hair out of his eyes with a smile that broadens as Jongin’s voice catches up into a light laugh, his eyes creasing in amusement as he leans gently into the touch. “Did you eat?”
Minseok doesn’t keep him, simply reminding him of the music performance on the weekend and how Luhan needs to remember to sleep and eat before he wears himself out. Finals are in a week. Luhan has to remember.
Don’t get distracted.
His hand warm and wrapped in Jongin’s fingers, the feeling of his shoulders under his hands as he reaches up to just touch, to lay his fingers over the structure that composes Jongin’s body and Jongin’s fingers lace with his. They’ve dedicated the afternoon to studying, something which Minseok backs out of extremely fast and Luhan doesn’t question him, attention divided.
Yixing doesn’t call to meet up, or perhaps he does and Luhan never noticed as he was preoccupied by Jongin and his irritation with clothing, shedding upon arriving in Luhan’s room before collapsing on the bed with a sigh. Shirtless, shoeless and warm nestled in the sheets, Luhan admires him. The flawless stretch of skin, the slope of spine to neck and ass, the beautiful body before him.
A hand extended with fingers reaching for him, beckoning for him and only him and it's winter but everything is too hot and fixated in a vacuum. “Luhan,” is breathless as his own shirt pulls over his head, skin prickling in the air as he takes the hand seeking him. Exploring skin has never been as enrapturing as it is with Jongin, who curls and never pushes but bends to Luhan without protest.
The perfect tone of a body before him, sculpted from hours of dancing and exertion. His own skin in contrast against the richness of Jongin’s, a yin and yang of flawless perfection.
His chest smooth and flat, muscles barely showing beneath the smooth pale skin as Jongin’s hands gently brush over it and the pages of academic work lie in wait. His eyes linger on Jongin, drinking him in, and mapping out, memorizing all the ways that he is. His own hands run over his own skin, feeling the difference between them and his stomach twists so tight there is no air in him anymore.◦❀◦
The reflection in the mirror looks back at him, fingers spreading down a chest that has begun to show, the faint lines of strength visible in the glass as they run down, tracing with eyes down a long firm chest. Arms begun to tone, the muscles there growing and showing the time and effort, making that which was once acceptable impressive. The perfect long of a torso melting into a waist, hips defined and drawing down to disappear to the dark waistband of his jeans, the skin unmarred and flawless. The beginnings of stomach muscles twitch under gentle fingers and he breathes, watching his chest rise and fall.
It’s different from the other times when put under physical scrutiny. Now, rather than a simple evaluation of health and acceptability, it’s for perfection, for beauty and the slow efforts and persistence is beginning to show. A smirk crawls over lips wet and pink as his breaths come slightly too fast and eyes dance in light.
“When was the last time you ate?” Yixing asks from the bed, his eyes on Luhan’s stomach as he flips through a magazine in his lap. “I didn’t see you at breakfast.”
“I went early,” Luhan tells him, eyes still on the mirror at the back of the door, standing and turning his head to the side, running fingers along the line of his jaw in meticulous calculation. Perfect. “I figured you would be sleeping in, considering you finished your exams yesterday and are going home tonight.”
It’s the end of exams and Luhan hasn’t slept, his final exam having been this morning and after finishing it was followed up by a trip to the gym and a fast shower. He’d been doing some light packing as he wandered around his room, taking a moment to breath and idly chatting with Jongin when Yixing had shown up. The winter air against his bare skin makes the hair rise, a rush going over him and a shiver but it’s pleasant, the cold sending a thrill through him that makes him smile.
“When are you going home?” Yixing asks, stretching further on Luhan’s bed and it tests his resolve not to shove him off, patience always tested when Yixing forgets
every time. Sacred space reserved for himself and those he allows
and lets into that part of his life. Once, Yixing had been allowed, but it seems that Yixing seemed to be unable to get out of the habit.
“Friday. Get off my bed.”
“I’m just lying here. I showered already this morning, I’m not a plague rat.”
Luhan’s eyes harden. “Off. Or I’ll remove you.”
“With all your new muscles and flexing?” The light in Yixing’s eyes is teasing and, while Luhan might be irritated, might pass it off, or, in this case, bring a smile to him that has Yixing’s mouth opening to a small circle. It shows. “I still can’t believe you’re turning into a juicer.”
“I’m not a jui- It’s exercise,” Luhan laughs. “You work out daily.”
“Not like a body builder and obsessing over myself in the mirror,” Yixing retorts and Luhan snorts out a laugh, turning back to the mirror. Two days until he has to go home. Two days until he leaves, until he walks from campus for a month only to return and throw himself back into the lifestyle with poise and dignity.
“I do not obsess,” Luhan informs him, pushing his hair back from his face and smirking at himself. Good.
“Fine then,” Yixing scoffs, nothing bothering to move from the bed as Luhan approaches him, still shirt bare and with his arms folded over his chest. “I don’t work out like a body builder and preen at myself in the mirror. Obsessively checking out how good I look.” He snuffles into high laughter as Luhan lunges to drag him off his bed, ending up getting dragged down instead as Yixing laughs and laughs, hands pulling at Luhan’s bare skin and tugging him close.
“Let go,” Luhan huffs irritably, trying to push Yixing off of himself, the tug against his skin and over him annoying and unnecessary. “I have stuff to do.”
“You do not,” Yixing laughs at him, trying to work Luhan around to get him to rest with him, to relax and splay on the bed with him, hand resting at his hip like it so often and easily does without thought. A slow burn of irritation begins to crawl up Luhan’s chest and turns sour. “Stuff more important than your best friend?”
“Yes,” Luhan says, and Yixing’s hands falter against him, losing their strength and falling back, a brief look at his face showing the flash of hurt across it. A brief pass of the emotion and then it’s gone, Yixing falling limp against the bed and Luhan still propped beside him, looking down at his face which has relaxed into indifference.
“Oh,” Yixing says and then rolls off the bed, away and Luhan feels cold. Then Yixing smiles, warm and full of his typical life. It isn’t anything that can be helped, Luhan knowing that Yixing tends to be a bit more sensitive on this part. It’ll all pass. “I should get going,” Yixing says, stretching so his shirt rides up, flashing a bit of his stomach to the room and Luhan’s eyes linger on it.
Yixing, like Jongin, rarely wears enough clothing for it to be remotely acceptable, instead dressing for temperatures far warmer and flashing skin that others hide. The difference is that Jongin does it and barely notices whereas Yixing does and then cowers. They both are toned and refined enough in their bodies however that the reason to be ashamed of their bodies escapes Luhan, Jongin at least never seeming aware of embarrassment linked to his physique.
A physique which Luhan envies a bit, his fingers gently drifting to draw over his chest and sending a light shiver through him before he stands. All in time, the image in the mirror improving daily as he holds his head higher. “Nap in your own bed,” Luhan tells Yixing, sweeping the other’s eyes back to him as he reaches up, brushing Yixing’s soft hair from his face. It’s getting so long again. He smiles. “You’ll be more comfortable there.”
Yixing blinks, and something shifts behind his eyes that Luhan only notices. “You never care when I let you crash with me,” he says, voice soft.
“Go rest,” Luhan tells him, his fingers leaving Yixing’s hair as he steps back. He is meeting Jongin for a late lunch. He should find a shirt, see if Jongin notices, see if Jongin smiles and tells him what he already knows about himself. “You’re exhausted.”◦❀◦
His skin is slick with sweat, running down his neck and back, sticking to his chest and plastering his clothing to his skin as he walks from the lockers, the gym dark and closed and he the last to leave. His body burns, the ache of exertion a dull throb along his muscles and settling into his bones. Luhan is tired, but it is a pleasant sort of weariness that settles over him and presses down at his shoulders just as strongly as it makes them stretch just a bit further up, broader, stronger and more impressive.
Firming with his back and stance, thighs strong and tense as his back holds him perfectly and his shoulders fit beside Jongin’s and fill him out. Perfectly.
His cheeks burn, the sweat at his hairline instantly cooling as he steps into the winter air and walks home, uncaring of the winter bite and air and pulling his phone from his pocket.
To: Jongin - are you free?
The shower beats hot against Luhan’s skin, turning it pretty and red, his reflection fogged when he checks it later and tilts his head from side to side. He doesn’t bother styling, instead slipping into a pair of skinny jeans that show off his legs, the light white cotton of his shirt casually sexy as he grabs a leather jacket that might be too light for the weather outside.
The flush in his cheeks is still there when Jongin opens his eyes, sleep clearing from them as he takes in Luhan’s smiling face and the damp ends of his hair.
“You look so amazing,” Jongin murmurs as Luhan stands breathless, hair tousled and panting slightly, his shirt tugged over his head hastily and Jongin’s eyes leaving a burning trail over him as they take him in. Drink him in all and whole. “You always look so amazing.” Their eyes meet. “You are amazing.”
Luhan breathes free and pulls Jongin down to meet his mouth with feverish fire in his veins.○❂○
It’s kind of weird when people talk about what it means to be the best. Some people categorize it as that which is most well known. They talk about celebrities that fuck on screen either fake or real, they talk about athletes who abandon their academic career for the pursuit of a physical degree of success. People talk about making themselves feel better, saying they are the best, that they are because they are who they are and that’s all they can be and it makes me sick and laugh.
How can you be perfect being a lazy slob at home? You aren’t perfect. You’re a lazy slob and you are exactly what you have done nothing to remedy. You are substandard and if you suffer for that then good. You deserve it. Anyone who doesn’t bother to work hard and strive to be the best person that they are deserves the shit hole of life that they get.
Perfect isn’t something you are, it is something you become. I learned that a long time ago, technically we’re all drilled into it. We're forced into learning what is perfect by education and our elders telling us what it is to be the best. We are graded until we learn to do it ourselves, we are evaluated until we learn how to force ourselves to push the barriers of acceptability and become more than they could ever aspire to be.
Watch athletes fail and learn from their mistakes. Watch those around us and figure out where you work and how you can become what it is you need to in order to rise above them. Perfection is something created, not initially manifested.
Perfection is something you do, to yourself, to the things around you. Perfection is control. Perfection is what you make yourself. Working tirelessly and nearly bleeding out as you strain. As I strain. I will be perfect. I know how to be and I will be and there is that ability in me and I will. Be. PErfeCt.◦❀◦
“Are you going home for vacation?”
Luhan smiles, a breath leaving him easily as he reclines, at ease and calm on the couch. The room is pleasantly warm, a delightful contrast to the snow falling gently down outside through the brisk winter air. “Today,” he answers.
“You must be happy.”
A home with familiar white walls and silences smelling of lavender and the subtle undertones of roses, a room he’s memorized and revisits in his dreams when he has them. A home that will be quiet and calm and filled with warm air and gently creaking floorboards as the winter settles around it in a soft blanket of white. “Yes.”
His mother’s hands gently folding cards and turning the pages of books, her lips pressed in a line as her eyes drag over words and mouth along in troubled spots when she gets caught. Frost spreading over his window, fogging in the evening as white moonlight pools through to him.
Twenty days. Four of them spent alone entirely and the others all occupied by the announcement he has yet to vocalize.
“Will you be seeing your friends over your vacation?”
“Yes,” Luhan says, his attention drawing from his thoughts. “I’m seeing a few.” Zitao coming over as is customary for family gatherings and holidays, the vacation season stretching just for the proper period of time that Zitao will be around. Minseok and Yixing promised to visit. His smile spreads as he thinks of Jongin coming to visit, of going to see him in the city, of having more warmth over a Christmas that always feels lacking.
“What about Jongin?” Luhan’s smile widens, spreading to it’s full strength and the warmth of the room seems to settle in his chest, expanding as he thinks of the careful way Jongin twines their fingers and pulls him close, keeping him and always waiting, looking, watching, needing him and giving him whatever it is Luhan may ask.
“Yeah,” he answer, the thrill that never seemed to stop as it pumped into his veins from first watching Jongin dance to meeting him with Soojung humming through him. “I am.” Days talked about while Jongin melted into his side and his fingers ran through the soft brown hair atop his head.
“How is that going?”
The question feels harsh, invasive and Luhan snaps his eyes to her. She has on a pearl necklace, draped down her neck and gorgeous. “Us?” It feels bitter and judged. Luhan unconsciously bristles.
“Yes, how are you and Jongin doing? I know you had a lot of work for exams and he was exhausted after his own finals and the end of the dance performances.”
Relax and breathe. Who wouldn’t be interested in how he and Jongin are doing? Jongin is wonderful, caring and sweet and kind, listening to Luhan as he becomes more and more comfortable in the eyes that look and only speak of love when Luhan smiles upon him.
“We’re good.” The smile is unrestrained, it can’t be contained. Luhan is too happy to let it, the emotion filling him as his hand runs absently up his arm, strong and toned and muscled. “We’re very good. I’m very happy.”
“And so is Jongin.”
“Of course he’s happy,” Luhan laughs, loud and clear and unsure whether he’s laughing at the statement or her. Both.
She smiles, the red of her painted lips stretching over her teeth. “I’m glad,” she says. “You look very good, Luhan.”
Coyly he smiles back, eyes dancing in amusement as that swell in his chest burgeons further. “I always look good,” he tells her.◦❀◦
There is a light dusting of snow on the ground outside the house, the light soft flakes falling down silently and bringing the world into a gentle comforting state of beauty. The lights in the house are on, a customary Christmas wreath hung at the door and waiting with welcome. Luhan’s breath fogs before him, listening to the taxi that delivered him drive away.
It’s a nice image, like something off of one of those stereotypical greeting or Christmas cards.
This time, his mother is waiting for him when he opens the door. This time, she sweeps him into a hug, eyes shining bright and he smiles without thinking at her, feeling warmer than the air of the house and the sweet and savory aroma of food amid the lavender. This time, she asks him questions, babbling away and walking with him up to his room and her eyes are shining.
It’s abrupt and so different and all the things that Luhan had never expected when coming home aside from a meal and a kiss and the voice at the back of his mind wonders aloud to him. Push it back, push it down, make it stop.
The house is warm, the holiday decorations are beautifully strung and his room is warm and lit when he walks to it to drop his travel bag onto the bed, for once not caring.
“You should eat up,” his mother tells him, watching him at dinner and smiling gently. “Something to help with all that muscle you’ve put on. I don't remember you ever looking like this.”
“Like what?” Joking questions and easier conversation than he’s had in years. Things are good, his life is good, everything is good. “Handsome?” He grins at the jest.
His mother laughs, the sound high and pretty and far more free than it has been in so long. “Luhan, you’ve always been handsome.” She smiles. “My handsome boy.”such a wonderful boy
An unexpected tension snaps through him, tightening around his arms, clenching the muscles in his abdomen and seizing up his back. It’s a spasm, nothing significant and the brief hitch in his breath, the reaction goes unnoticed and Luhan’s mother continues talking, her hand resting on Luhan’s arm, fingers glittering with pretty simplistically elegant rings gentle and soft.
Soft pretty hands and gorgeous features and a face that men swooned after, following admirers and lovers. A legacy which he’s following in his own manner even if the family resemblance isn’t as striking as he might wish. She has the strong jaw and the larger long shoulders that he does and his eyes linger on them.
Tall broad shoulders that are stiffening with muscle and sinew, stronger and getting stronger as every day passes and every weight is held in his hands.
“Are you finished?” startles him out of his thoughts, head shaking as he looks down at his plate, the serving missing and he blinks, unaware he had been eating at all. He can feel it settling in the base of his stomach, heavy and leadened and he swallows down the last sticky remnants.
Standing in the room later, his mother in her own room and far beyond the house since she fell asleep, Luhan stands and stares, breathing slightly heavier as he looks in the mirror to the light sheen of sweat that glistens on his chest, down his neck and just barely lights on the skin of his stomach.
Darkness shades as his eyes close, focusing on breathing and relaxing, letting the familiar feeling and smell of his room seep into him, calm him down and settle. In a mockery of a movie film, images of Jongin, his body moving in perfection, the stretch of muscle and bone and flesh under skin, the immaculate construction which would bring envy from any other. The toning and careful maintenance that has mouths watering and Luhan’s blood picking up pace, warming him as his body awakens to the thought of it.
Jongin standing with him, Jongin chest against his chest and the slowly shrinking differences, the strength that comes with Jongin slowly showing in himself, the visual image from moments before to him in glass coming back and replacing Jongin.
Handsome. Impressive. Losing the flaws which so plagued it in the past.
Fingers push back the hair from his face, pushing back and raking through damp with sweat from now habitual evening exercise conditioning that firms muscle and has begun to leave the definite lines over his once softer body. It looks good. He
Running fingers along lips, the lines of his nose and the planes of cheeks and a forehead and over brows, a exhale billows out of his chest. Features once called delicate, weak, too fragile to become anything and effeminate. He’s not pretty. Luhan has never been pretty, though his features may have a definition to them which is not typical. Never pretty.
The muscles now standing in clearing definition along his chest and forming along the lines of his stomach, flattening it and turning him to steel, are what he really is.
Perfect.such a wonderful, beautiful boy
Breath sharpening and eyes snapping shut and stumbling down the hall to grasp for a faucet and pound scalding water against his skin, burning away the sound of anything save for heavy breaths and water pummeling against skin, turning it violently crimson.
Water dripping from skin and spreading the floor in the mockery of rain, the windows and walls are masked by steam, the barrier on all surfaces blocking off eyes to look back into his and see him for what he really is.◦❀◦
The sound of Jongin’s laugh is beautiful, unlike anything Luhan could have expected. He laughs with his whole self, as if nothing could stop him from doing so and neither does he imagine it ever will be ended without his consent. It’s beautiful, like him, a gorgeous mix of the strong and soft, all visual intimidation and power and within a sweet and gentle heart that loves with all of itself and has taken Luhan into itself and wrapped him in security.
“Did you have a good Christmas?”
Holiday seasons passing. It had been exactly the same, waking up the next morning to the same smile, the same system, the same vague distancing that has seemed to plague their life since Luhan can remember. It's easier, this time, telling her about Jongin.
“You’re dating another boy?”
“Yes, mother, I am. He’s very nice. We’re happy.”
“Well, I’m glad you can be happy.”
The feeling of Jongin’s fingers lacing with his own draws Luhan’s attention back, keeping him in the moment, with Jongin’s head tucked under his chin and his hands intertwined with his own, warm and comfortable and safe.
Jongin is so safe. Jongin doesn’t push, doesn’t assume and just lets him be. He’s the most comfortable person, only loving. There is so much love in him… Is there ever a point where it stops?
It sends a slight shiver through him, shoulders tensing and Jongin shifts, turning to look at him. “Okay?”
“Fine,” Luhan says but the word feels of soot and crimson as soon as it passes his lips, leaving a track back to him. Jongin doesn’t look convinced, his face darkening in concern as he studies Luhan’s. Fingers that are built for use in hands that work rather than remain for observation brush delicately over his face.Delicate.
“You can tell me,” Jongin says, his voice quiet and soft, caring to the point that Luhan’s heart pounds in his chest, that his skin feels raw and everything seems to fog, to shake. “Luhan, you can tell me anything.”
They're lying down, stretched out on Luhan’s bed, the quilt that had laid there for years despite his lack of choosing worn with age and scratching at the skin of his hip where his shirt has ridden up. The room isn’t cold and Jongin nestled to him, arms draped over his waist and half clinging, holding onto him and needing him is enough to keep the winter that lingers at the fringe at bay. The lamp on the bed hasn't changed in sixteen years as Luhan’s eyes fix on it, the many times it has been turned on and off by his fingers or another’s and a lump presses to his throat as he thinks of how much this room has seen.
The press of lips against his temple has his eyes closing, the deep breath held as soft cradling hands come to rest around his face. Holding together, loving in their gentle caress against his skin so fair and immaculate.
“What if you don’t like what you hear?” The words sit in the air waiting for someone to rip them down.
“Are you a child murderer?” The question has a laugh ripping from him unexpectedly, Jongin laughing along with him and it startles him out of his reverie. Jongin is so bright, so beautiful and so young with energy. Luhan looks at him and sees someone who wants to be with him, who takes time away from everything he knows, his friends and his family, to truly be with him.
Downstairs, there is no sound and despite being polite and bowing accordingly and offering small smiles, the reaction had been nothing short of cordial. Shaking hands of the young man who is the lover of her son and yet nothing but bemusement passed over those pretty features.
Luhan isn’t downstairs and Jongin is here with him, curled in this space that Luhan has found sanctuary in for years of his life and curled into at time of darkness, silent whispers and airless gasps in the hours when no one could see. The laughter quiets in his mouth.
“No, I’m not a child murderer,” Luhan tells Jongin as he tugs at his ear absently.
“Then it’s okay,” Jongin says, his arms tightening around Luhan. “If something is bothering you, you can always talk to me. I just might not know what to say.”
“You never really know what to say,” Luhan teases him and Jongin smiles like the sun is shining and only he can truly understand it’s happiness.
“That doesn’t stop me from trying.”
With Jongin, it’s safe, the other there, stable and whenever he needs him, at times listless and when exhausted cranky but he’s there and he showers with affection and adores. Jongin is that thing which loves with his whole heart. Jongin will listen, even if he doesn’t understand and it shakes within Luhan in a seismic tremor, from his core to the surface.
A gentle kiss to the lips as eyes close and he drinks in confidence and power.
Jongin is the exception for everything, the strong and the outstanding. Jongin is the shining ray of raw talent and unheeded ability that works beyond its measure to be the best. He is the cream at the top and he is that highest percentile.
Luhan breathes in deep and opens his mouth as Jongin’s eyes flicker in the dim yellow light of the room.
Luhan has always had high expectations. They have been instilled in him since he was young, the standards of his parents for him rising above all other children he knew. He was better than them, they told him even as he was shoved around for being skinny, for having a pretty face for a boy. High expectations for academics, high expectations for sports, high expectations for everything that just rose higher and higher until Luhan couldn’t see them anymore and his eyes clouded with tears.
"Don't cry," his mother had said, wiping the tears of her son with her own face creased in a frown. Serious and cold and compose. The proper visage of someone who has taken life and put in it's place. "Never let them see you cry. You are strong, stronger than all of them and they envy you. No one else can be you or will ever be you and what you are is the best. So show them that."
To be accepted, to be loved, that was all that mattered. To be loved was the one thing that Luhan always wondered what it was, to feel that warmth spreading through limbs as he imagined it might be when he closed his eyes, when he filled his lungs with air and focused his mind on one thing. The rare moments it was something he felt was within his grasp was when he was young, when a warm kind smile would flash at him from the opposite side of the table from his mother, a darker richer smoother voice telling him that it’s okay to scrape his knees, just don’t let it keep him on the ground.
Get up again, do it better.
His mother has always been the one who views life critically, who sees the world as a practical place and where he had to excel, where they all had to excel, they themselves only in their place from hard work. Her hard work, her parents’ hard work, her husband’s hard work. Luhan could hear them as he sat doing homework for the class two years above his own in the late of evening, arguing and his mother’s voice raising.
But there was always a smile, a soft hand that would brush Luhan’s hair from his face and tell him he had to keep going, that he was doing well when his mother pushed and pushed and pushed and pushed and he stumbled not to fall. There was always the warm strong arms of his father, who Luhan was so easy to fall into and trust and think was the one place he could truly be at peace.
“I hate him,” is out of Luhan’s mouth before he realizes it and Jongin blinks, shifting back looking shocked as Luhan’s stomach twists.
“Why?” Jongin looks confused, so confused as he looks over Luhan and the burn that he never allows to spike through him does
, searing as it goes and he resists the urge to clench his hands into painful fists.
“Because he didn’t actually care,” Luhan says and Jongin’s eyes darken.
The family portrait in the hall hangs as an ugly reminder of something that once was and will never be properly again. A family of three rent horribly into two and never the same following. “Something like that.” His throat sticks to the words as he tries to force them up, stomach clenching as he feels the food from being home, heavy and far more than he had been eating at university heavy. “I look like him more than my mother.”
“Your mother is beautiful,” Jongin says, idly as if a passing through as his eyes flicker over Luhan’s face.
“I know.” Twist the knife deeper as his face shines raw.
“You’re more so.”
Luhan pushes at him gently, his hand resting on his chest just over his heart which beats too well and is too big. “Women are beautiful. Men are handsome.”
His father was also handsome, though his face had more definition that Luhan’s does, his shoulders the same softer stretch opposed to the strong look of power and constitution his mother held when her back straightened. It looked weak.You are not weak, Luhan. You are not like him.
“You’re both,” Jongin tells him, and it’s so sweet and warm that his throat turns raw and his eyes shut. Lips brush over his forehead. “You are.”
He feels sick to be loved like this but it’s everything he wants and everything he hungers and everything he deserves
. “Tell me more.”◦❀◦
Jongin is perfect, the most amazing human that Luhan has ever met. Though shy at first, he and Zitao had nothing but laughter between them when his cousin came to visit, Sehun seeming to have no issue with talking to him. Sehun laughed at all of the jokes Jongin made, face creased into laughter that wrecked his entire handsome demeanor but it made Jongin so happy.
“Don’t laugh like that, you look ugly,” Luhan tells Sehun and the younger boy flushes bright red as Zitao sighs to himself and tugs at Sehun’s sweater, pulling it into proper place from where it’s messed up. Jongin sits beside Luhan, warm and stable and Luhan doesn’t want him elsewhere. His legs look perfect in his jeans, slim and strong and gorgeous, just like him. His fingers lace with Luhan’s and he squeezes to make sure Luhan knows he’s there.
“My face is fabulous,” Sehun mumbles back, as if he doesn’t want Luhan to hear him but not quite enough to be inaudible. His eyes flicker to Jongin and the shift in them has a crawl up Luhan’s chest that sneers ugly. “Everyone says so.”
“No, they don’t,” Zitao says, shoving Sehun in the head. “They say you look like you’re emotionally constipated constantly and they don't understand how you stay handsome on top of such a small emotional range.”
“I’m just amazing like that,” Sehun replies and Luhan’s lip curls at the hubris rolling off the young boy with soft auburn hair who licks his lips too often. Jongin’s hand squeezes around his own.
“I have to get going soon,” Jongin whispers into his hair. It’s been three days and Jongin will be at school when they go back. Luhan wants to keep him, locked under and with him and make sure he never leaves, never goes and never strays. Keep his heart which takes and gives and gives and gives
to him while Luhan spins further down to him, breathing shallow.
Love never felt like this before. Love never gripped him with a desperation like this before. Become the best to be the best to deserve this love that is rightfully his.
He is deserving. He is perfect. Jongin is perfect. It’s the answer.
He calls Minseok an hour after Jongin has left, after the room was too cold without a warm presence there for it and when Sehun and Zitao had long since left to do other things, Sehun’s eyes lingering as they stood in the doorway.
“I’m glad you’ve finally deemed me worthy of your time,” Minseok drawls over the phone and Luhan’s mind is still fuzzy, still spinning.
“Get coffee with me,” he says, short and demanding but he needs it.
“I’m with Dongwoo.”
“Please, Minseok?” Luhan’s eyes fix on the bed, the coverlet boring and dull and he wants to not be alone. Everything is different now that he’s feeling raw, the lamp on his bedside table waiting to be turned off and the desk with the notebook that never seems to stop filling closed with a pen waiting atop it. His stomach twists as his mouth presses into a line.
A sigh. “I didn’t know you missed me so much.”
“I always miss you when you’re not around.” Luhan begins to pace, hugging himself with one arm as he moves and a small smile teases over his lips.
“Don't lie, it’s horrible when you do,” Minseok accosts him gently. “Do you want me to come pick you up?”
“I never lie,” Luhan tells him and looks up to meet his own eyes in the mirror.
Minseok’s eyes don’t stray far as they sit across from one another at the local café, Luhan talking over himself and over and over as Minseok watches him, his exaggerated hand gestures and the shake that takes to his fingers. “Stop looking at me like that,” Luhan finally snaps.
Minseok blinks. “Like what?”
“Like you think there’s something wrong,” Luhan says, voice terse and tired of the crease between Minseok’s brows. “There’s nothing wrong. I literally just explained everything that isn’t wrong with me.”
“I never said there was something wrong,” Minseok says and Luhan’s fingers tense around his coffee cup. The fog is still there, the narrowing of his world into a central scope. He needs to calm down, to focus, the sea of emotions that had begun to break out from spilling words into the air now just getting deeper since Jongin had listened to him and gently run his fingers along his face.
Calling him beautiful. Telling him he was perfect as he is. Loving him.
Luhan’s breath is short as Minseok sits stunned before him. The coffee steam curls in the air between them.
“Are things with Jongin okay?”
“Why wouldn’t they be okay?” Luhan asks, noting the frown on Minseok’s lips as he says the other man’s name. “Look, if you have a problem with my boyfriend, you can-“
“I never said I had a problem with him,” Minseok looks shocked, stunned as he sits up, his eyes widening. “I just, I wanted to make sure you were okay. We haven’t talked or hung out as much since you started dating him. Not even like when you were with Yifan.” He pauses, a light bite to his lip and a brief chew as he appears to hesitate on the last sentence. “I just miss having my friend around, is all.” The tension that had briefly begun to crawl down Luhan’s skin lessens. “I just want you to take care of yourself.”
Air passing easily in and out of his lungs, filling him and leaving him alive and at peace, Luhan lets himself smile. The concern in Minseok’s eyes fades but a portion remains as he watches his friend. “I will,” he says. “I’m very good at taking care of myself.” His smile widens. “The best, actually.”◦❀◦You look good.
The phrase, repeated with various smiles and appreciative looks, begin to meet him everywhere. In the grocery store, when he drops by Zitao’s and startles both his cousin and Sehun in the middle of video games. When he sees Yixing and one of his music friends. When Minseok leaves him at the café. When his mother sees him and when the neighbors pass, the other strangers at the gym and the stores clerk checks him out as he’s picking up toothpaste.You look really good.
Handsome face fixed with a better haircut, shorter and a more masculine feel, his fingers brushing through it, skin pale as the snow outside and kept in perfect condition as he checks it in the bathroom mirror. Luhan can feel the strength building in his arms, in his legs, in his abdomen, his lungs taking in more air from long hours of exertion on the treadmills as swear plasters his skin and sticks the air in his throat.
It’s warmer in the room with his skin washed clean and without the extra drip against the back of his neck and Luhan finds himself examining. Running his fingers and looking down, watching their journey over his skin. The previous night was spent reading, going through books as his eyes refused to stay closed and the light of the moon pulled him from slumber, thoughts spinning over onto each other and what it was to be beautiful and handsome together, to feel that insurmountable worth spread so vast inside that there’s no room for air.You look really amazingly good. So handsome. So beautiful. Everything.
The light from the lamp beside the bed gleams in the three o’ clock time scale and hits against the planes of a body that seems too loved and cared for to properly be seen at this time. As his fingers glide over the skin, his mind skips into a realm of thought and perception. What is it like for others to look at him like this, to see him in the showers of the gym, to look up and see him standing before them in the market?
What do they see? Is their breath taken away?
Does Minseok look at his best friend and wistfully wonder how Luhan’s face catches the light? Does Yixing wonder what it would be like to run his hands down his sides one more time and press their lips together just so and feel the air stop in his lungs?
Does Jongin feel his heart stop as he looks upon Luhan, his hands itching to reach and caress the landscape of his body and sending a shudder through him that cannot be matched by any other? Does he think about Luhan, flushed and the perfect visage of beautiful and handsome before him as he lies awake at night, the image brought before his eyes in times of need?
What’s it like to be them?
The mirror is half in shadow across the room but it still looks back at him. Is this what they see? Luhan’s breath catches as he sees himself the moonlight from the window steaming in on one side and the light from the lamp hitting the other, perfectly painting over his half naked body in a balance that has him captivated.
Hours of work, of sculpting of sweating away what he never needed and what he needed to let go of to continue to become better. House of shoving down that slightly sick feeling as the memories of the past and hands that were weak and perceived to care touched his skin and lips that he inherited smiled too sweet. Hours and days and pounding repeated words and dialogue and concepts, truths of what he knows and believes into the supple tissue of his mind and leaving him with this.
Breath catches as he follows the movement of his hands down, thinking for a brief moment of it being another, a lover, Jongin before his thoughts stop. His hand pauses and he pulls back. Eyes follow the lines of his body, his
and he breathes in deep to let himself feel, to think to see what it is they see.such a beautiful, wonderful, perfect boy
His breath sucks in faster as his hand slides over his body, watching himself and the flow of his blood throbs beneath his skin, the muscles twitching to attention and he can see it.so amazing
The look of the eyes in the mirror opposite him darkens as the sound of a pulse beats loudly in his ears, his mind hazing progressively as his fingers feel and his skin prickles to this touch that has him enraptured unlike before.
In between the panting breaths that begin to turn ragged as eyes follow with an intense insatiable hunger brewing within them, he starts to feel the vague tendrils of understanding wrap around him and tug him down into the soft allure.
is what they see.
Jongin stays. It’s been weeks, almost a full month since the monotonous drag of school once more set back in and Luhan’s schedule began to slam into him with the force of the autumn tides, unrelenting. Tired with the extra pressures of a relationship that speeds fast and holds strong, Luhan sways between the realms of two weeks ahead and one week to deadlines crawling up his spine with Jongin’s fingertips not far behind.
“Stop it,” snaps over and over and yet Jongin stays. “Go away,” and Jongin does but the messages appear in his phone and Luhan looks at the snow destroyed by footprints and dirt and sneers at the impurity of it all. “Stay,” Luhan says, forehead tilted to Jongin’s chest and watching the tears held barely at bay in the other’s eyes and he does.
Jongin stays and Luhan wonders why.
No, he doesn’t.
“I love you,” whispers past those perfectly soft supple lips and Luhan claims them, the feeling of them still his and only his and it terrifies him how much he’s beginning to need him there.don’t let them see how weak you are. don’t let them know what can hurt you because you are stronger than anything that they can hit you with; you need to be stronger than them. never let them think you are anything less than you are
Pound through books, pound through schedules and advanced student meetings and appointments with professors and a woman who wears glasses and nylons that accent her calves and pound through the door to the rush of his pounding heart. His fingers press into skin and he waits for the soft word “stop” and nearly yells out in anger when he hears it.
“What?” he demands, pulling back and looking down at the flushed skin and cheeks so pretty before him. “What’s so wrong that you don’t want me?”
Panic laces over that face, eyes wide and form seizing up as Luhan steps back, anger and frustration running through him, shaking off Jongin’s hands as they reach for him.
“Please, no,” Jongin says, voice cracking as he tries to follow and Luhan steps back further. He doesn’t need this. “Luhan, I never said I didn’t want you.”
“Then why wont you give me what I want?” touch me, please me, do everything for me, give it all up for me because I am the best thing you will ever have. tell me this, remind me of this, make me worth it.
The eyes that would never open staring up at him from the silk padded lining and the overwhelming smell of flowers that seemed to drown him as water clogged in his throat and pressed down his face. “Jongin, I don’t know what I’m doing wrong that you don’t care, that you don’t-”
“I don’t know what you want!” Jongin finally snaps. Desperation, drawn out and frantic as he flares in anger and the next second steps back, fuming and the radiation from him is grime along walls. “Luhan, I don’t know what you want me to do.”
They fall out, they fall in, Luhan buries himself in academics and student government and drags Minseok out for hours at a time kicking soccer balls across the pitch as sharp eyes watch him and he doesn’t acknowledge it. Jongin comes to his door late at night and Luhan is shirtless, hair tousled and jeans low on his hips and it starts all over again, waiting and wanting and it’s never enough.
Jongin was perfect, the flawless creature of beauty that shone from a center stage and Luhan was left breathless and in awe. Jongin was everything, loving and perfect and talking him to himself and loving him unconditionally and Luhan choked on the bitter taste of coffee in his mouth from their dates in cafes with hands held out of sight.
Jongin jumps at noises that are harmless nothings, shrieks at horror movies and has a childish obsession with anime and manga memorabilia that will do nothing for him in later life. Jongin is sweet but he’s not strong, clinging and crying when he’s upset.
Jongin cries and Luhan walks away.
The sign of weakness is always in the outward displays of emotion, the flashes of high voices in anger that scream through walls and turn frowns deeper. The terrified shrieks of people who startle in the night and the tracks of human carved emotion down the face as raw misery spills from lips and sours the air.
Jongin cries and Luhan feels sick as he watches him. “Don’t leave.” A plague to settling when everything had been exactly as it was and then peaked. It broke, something broke and the only answer can be Jongin. Luhan’s heart beats fast as he stands and searches frantically for anything that may be wrong, the imperfections in his skin and the pleasing form depicted back to him.
But there is nothing wrong.
When it strikes past midnight on the analogue clock on the desk beside Luhan’s bed, the door knocks and he opens it. “I’m sorry,” are the hasty words from lips. “I’m so sorry. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”
The burning cracking feeling that builds in him pressures up into his throat and tastes of violent copper. Luhan can breathe, the smell of familiarity filling him as Jongin steps in and he just wants to know. “Do you love me?”
All that is needed is love to survive the world and the squeeze around his heart to almost stop it when Jongin wraps his arms around him has him shaking. Luhan needs to be loved, he wants to be loved and he deserves it. Every creature deserves to be loved and cared for and his heart stops the erratic pounding as Jongin whispers to him the sweet creature that he is and the ways in which he is everything to him. Jongin speaks into his skin and worships him and Luhan can breathe and let himself go from the iron grip he’s wound around himself.
As warm palms come to cup his face, carefully and gentle cradling him as if he is more precious than the grail, Luhan feels the drop and the fall, his heart too big and too small for him to take as Jongin kisses him. Kisses him as if he never can do anything else in this moment. “Don’t ever leave me,” he whispers against lips lush and soft and sweet against his own and Jongin cries for him as everything hits the wall.◦❀◦
“I won’t.” Cracked red lines appear over the photograph as his vision bleeds into white.◦❀◦
“Everything is wrong.”
Barely inside the room it explodes out of him without his control. He can’t think, can’t breathe and stepping into the too calm interior of the room has his teeth, already on edge, grinding painfully. Eyes flash with worry behind glasses. “Luhan,” she says and fuck everything, of course it’s him. “What’s wrong?”
“Everything.” Raw screams at the back of his throat from the emotions he can’t let past the bars that’s kept them in control for so long, the ugly rearing of heads that should never have been let loose. Shut it down, close it off, maintain, maintain, maintain but it slips through his fingers in the wild screaming that shuts out his mind. “Everything is wrong and I Don’t know why but I can’t Stop it and I’m-“
He can’t breathe, the world swimming as the couch rushes up to him as his focus blurs and someone lets out a startled yell before his eyes close.
He opens his eyes splayed on the couch as he usually is, looking at the walls around him and, for the first time, the lack of anything of interest is the most welcome thing to him as he breathes and tries to calm his racing heart from the trauma it slams against his ribcage. He breathes in and out and focuses, centering himself on the pass of air in and out of him and finally looks up.
The lines of concern are so deep. “Luhan, I need you to tell me what just happened to you.”
When Luhan was seven years old, he was diagnosed by a child psychologist of suffering from severe anxiety attacks. The cure was to put him on medication that would calm him down and keep his hyperactivity and intense moments of internal and external panic at bay. This significantly relieved the stress from his mother of the burden of taking care of a panicked child on a daily basis who worked himself into terrors. He stopped screaming in his sleep and his mother could finally rest.
In his first year of high school, when Luhan had passed puberty and begun to fight against the ridicule that he had initially received from his peers, the strain of the social pecking order lessened as the student body instead turned to their examinations, the last dose of anxiety medication was given back to his mother. “I don’t need them,” Luhan had told her and never looked back.
Dependency was a weakness on something out of your own control. Luhan was raised to look after himself, to take care of himself by his mother who had enough to do, who saw the world for the cruel barren place it is. Be strong.
Luhan is steel.
“I’m having difficulties with Jongin,” is where Luhan begins as his mind slots everything back into place. The throb of emotions under his skin is nearly agonizing, the slicing pain from his heart real. The clipboard isn’t used today, the pen abandoned beside it and Luhan didn’t style his hair before coming over for the eight thirty appointment. “I don’t know what’s wrong but it’s all wrong and I need to have him fix it.”
“I don't know what’s wrong.” Those eyes darken and the concern deepens as Luhan’s throat goes dry and his fingers twist together. “There’s something wrong with us. With how we are.”
“Can you explain it to me?”
He doesn’t understand how important I am. I have
to be important enough for him to love me. “I think-“ What if he hurts me he’s going to leave me he can’t do that. “I don't know if I can trust him.” No one leaves me. I let him in. “I told him things, and we shared things together.”
“What kinds of things, Luhan?”
“He knows about me.”
Luhan doesn’t like to delve into the past. It’s the past for a reason with secrets and skeletons in the closet and he doesn’t like his past. It’s not pretty, it’s not beautiful and it’s everything that he’s climbed out of to become the person that he is today. He’s grown from that time, he’s developed from that time. A lotus blossom in a pond of muck as he stands out among the filth and decay.
“I know about you,” she says and Luhan’s mouth forms a line of dislike.
Not like this.
Jongin knows. Jongin is going to leave him. He’s seen him and even if Luhan loves him and Jongin possibly returns the affections, no one loves him the way he needs.
In the end, they’re all going to leave him.
The wind seems to suck into nothing, the air vanishing from the room as everything slows to nothing, sharpening to focus on the one thing that holds any semblance of significance. Rationalize, conceptualize, work through the numbers and organize the data until the only possible solution is a to be to the end of everything. Everything into perspective is the only way to filter. “Yes, you do,” Luhan says, voice carrying through a box as his mind turns at all of the speeds possible.
It is impossible to be left if he is already gone. Trust cannot be broken if it’s already abandoned.
“When you have a crack in your mug, what do you do with it?”
The way she looks at him suggests that she doesn’t understand. Of course not, how could she understand? Luhan wants to sneer, the cement that blocks over his chest as he feels acid and mercury replace the soft consistency of blood. “I don't understand, Luhan.”
The laugh gurgles at the back of his throat and fogs his mind in euphoric peace. “You throw it out.”
Her pretty eyes widen behind her glasses and Luhan sits back to fall into everything he knows to be fact.
“Luhan, is everything okay?”
Love is a toxin that is necessary for human survival. Just like those who suck cigarette smoke into their bodies in a daily ritual of long term suicide, love is a toxin like the chemicals found in cancer sticks that our bodies and minds have become so dependent upon we can’t function without it.
A horrific crippling addiction which weakens us as individual beings to love and prosper without the dependency on another to ensure happiness. A mother demanding the love of her child and screaming indignation when it is refused.
One lover kills another lover for being with someone else in a moment of doubt.
It’s a drug, a horrific sadistic and masochistic instrument by the mind and emotions used to cripple and manipulate and the most terrifying force in the entire world that we know.
Love and hate, the two largest opposites anyone can think of, juxtaposed but their impact is the same. If someone were to say ‘I hate you’ the reaction is just as violent and intense as it is if someone were to whisper close and say ‘I love you’.
Fuck love. It fogs the mind and addles the brain and destroys all proper function because it is the most beautiful and sorrowful thing ever to exist and I need it.
I NeEd it.
Like the air needs oxygen and a book words, it is something we all need and look for but what kind of love is there that we can properly get and feel fulfilled with. Who could love such wretched creatures as ourselves, thrown to the earth to await our death and fucking everything we touch to destruction?
Who could love? I want to love I can love it is easy to love love is simple when you do it but impossible to find because no one understands who could understand it’s an abstract concept and it is always- you will never know
love mine is the kingdom and I keep it MINE.◦❀◦
“Tell me you love me.”
“I love you.”
“Luhan, please. I don’t want to do this.”
“I’m not lying. I love you. I really do. Please.”
He can’t hear over the screaming in his ears that sounds of his own voice and a thousand others at a different pitch all echoing around the space between his ears. A great chasm of sound opening it’s jaw to swallow him whole as he pushes back and never looks down.
“Okay.” Breathe in and everything stops.○❂○
I am safe. I am at peace. I am okay. I am happy with who I am. I am alive. I am comfortable with myself and everything that I am. I am love. I am acceptance. I am happiness and sadness and understand and the world around me. I am strong.
I am Luhan.
I am the best that I can be.
I am. Perfect.◦❀◦
“I don’t understand.”
Words that cripple and combust and loop over on themselves and Luhan stood with his feet solid on the ground and watched, blocking down whatever might try to rise up as he kept his voice level and spoke to the point. “I’m breaking up with you.”
He should have expected it, after all the lashing out, the fights, the times he screamed at Jongin to get out when it all got to be too much and he couldn’t speak or breathe. When he felt like he was being swallowed and couldn’t let Jongin any closer because he was already there. It’s self precautionary, the distancing but now, with a face streaked in tears and confusion and the realization that this isn’t going to be where they come back, Jongin crumples before his hand like sandcastles on the beach.
The angered reaction never came, the fury and the attack. It never came. Letting go is hard but not being fought for…
The blood stains on a carpet that paint a whole room red, motionless body as the window stays open and a light breeze wafts in, gently agitating the curtains to mimic the only life once present in the room. A soundless scream of a child as a mother stood in horror and the first break began.
Luhan let’s his feet travel him to class, where he sits and takes notes and listens to the professor and Soojung glances at him a few times, a vague curiosity about her but Luhan ignores it. He has things to concentrate on aside from her gossiping habits. His phone vibrates against his leg and he ignores it. Soojung’s phone vibrates and he ignores it, even as she steps up and leaves class quickly, what appears to be worry blossoming over her pretty face. I don’t understand.
Luhan stands at the mirror in the bathroom, the tiled walls and floor rising up and the only thing of any significance is the mirror, reflecting the room back in perfect mimicry. He runs his fingers through his hair, checking and setting and resetting. He looks good today.
He looks good everyday when he knows how to hide the small things he knows about himself and keep out of sight. The scar at his lip and the way his shoulders will never be just broad enough. The way his teeth are slightly crooked and his hands aren’t pretty. The way one of his eyes doesn’t exactly match the other and his dark hair is always in need of a touch up at the roots.
Don't let the flaws be visible, he reminds himself as he feels his pulse jump under his skin, closing his eyes and leaning over one of the sinks. There is no one on this floor at the moment; no one of importance.
The ache in his chest is from lack of sleep and the stress of finals, the shake in his hands that started a week ago a symptom of general stress. The rushing of blood under his skin and the shortness of breath are all just normal.
There is nothing wrong with him.
He opens his eyes, meeting his own eyes in the mirror, mouth set in a line and his face serious. A perfect face, the envy of those who look upon him. Luhan, the handsome who holds a strange beauty about him which no one can classify or compare to. Luhan who excels in every aspect working and making it look effortless, his accomplishments far beyond what others might expect.
Luhan, who has been on the dean’s list since he entered university, unlike Yixing, who made it once and that was enough. Unlike Minseok, who struggles to stay on amid his flashing extra-curriculars. Luhan, who managed the time to physically perfect himself in the span of months to the flawlessness of Jongin the prodigal dancer and Yixing, who has the awe of the performance department with his years of training.
Luhan did all of that, faster, better, and with other things simultaneously.
The vibration of his phone startles him out of his thoughts, reaching down to check the number and his eyebrows rise at the name flashing on the screen.
“I can’t believe you broke up with Jongin,” Yixing’s voice rushes over the line and Luhan meets his eyes again in the mirror. Jongin the young dancer who just entered university this year. Jongin the young man who loves blindly and is at heart full of childish dreams despite his perfect physique.
“How did you find out?” Luhan asks, stepping back from the sink but his eyes linger on the brush of his hair over his face.
“Not from you, that’s for sure.” It’s harsher than he’s sure Yixing intends. Yixing is rarely harsh with him. It’s just not how they work. “Why didn’t you tell me? I’m your best friend and you couldn’t even bring up something like this?”
Something vile spikes in Luhan’s veins. “Did Jongin tell you?” Of all people, Jongin. Jongin going to Yixing, his dancing peer, to tell Yixing that Luhan had broken up with him. Talking to Yixing over-
They’re not dating anymore and Luhan has to close his eyes to calm down from the spike and hot anger that rushed through him. He doesn’t need him to be whole. Dry throat and sticky to swallow.
“No,” Yixing sighs loudly through the phone, static scratching against his ears. “Soojung just told me. Jongin is with her and Taemin.”
“Good,” Luhan says, waiting for the feeling of relief, of regret of something to hit him at the news. It doesn't. He made the right decision. “He should be with him. He didn’t take it very well.”
“Jesus, Luhan, you broke up with him out of no where, how did you think he was going to take it?” Yixing sounds upset. Extremely upset. Luhan frowns. “He was in love with you, is probably still and you just-“ Yixing sounds annoyed, upset with Luhan as his voice rises and Luhan’s pulse skips so fast he almost can’t feel it until it slams into him. “What the hell made you break up with him? You guys were so happy.”
The metal bands around his chest constrict, the disappointment in Yixing’s voice, the disdain, the disapproval and the aghast tone he uses, as if Luhan is breaking up with him all over again and not some other boy from his dance company. It pushes the air from him, leaving him to nearly drop his phone to shatter it on the tiled bathroom floor as he stumbles to the sink again, catching it and trying to breathe over the roar in his ears and the shake in his vision.
Breathe. Breathe. Breathe
He gasps, trying to calm down the gripping panic in him as his muscles and body seizes up, strong and crippling as it locks down. He runs through number systems, patterns and codes and anything sequential to try to keep it down, to keep the churn under his skin as the pressure in his skull threatens to shatter it into oblivion.
Mouth open and letting out a breath, he holds. Strength is in letting others never see when you’re falling apart. Strength is power and always looking in control. Remind yourself that you are the best and nothing can touch you.
Invaluable and he does not settle. It only ends in agony.
“It wasn’t,” Luhan finally manages to say, turning on the faucet and letting the water run gently over his fingers, cooling the skin. “We weren’t perfect.”
“No couple is perfect.” Stab into the skin, bleed through the wounds. Lifeless eyes closed and never opening. Luhan feels sick. “No one has a relationship without issues. I just didn’t realize you and Jongin were so bad.” Yixing sighs again and water runs over the back of Luhan’s now fisted hand. “He never mentioned anything.”
“You’re my best friend,” Luhan says, focusing on the cool water over his skin. “He probably thought if he talked shit about me to you, he’d get punched.”
“I don't think he’d ever speak badly of you,” is soft and gentle and Luhan doesn’t want to talk about this. It’s not Yixing’s business. “He really-“
“Why are you so invested in this?” Luhan snaps, losing his patience as he doesn’t want to think about the relationship of nearly four months that he’s just ended. “Why do you care so much that Jongin and I broke up?” The anger helps him focus, helps his mind clear and stay on one thing.
“Because I care,” Yixing replies and it sounds shocked, hurt. “Because I care about you, Luhan, and you haven’t talked to me at all about this. You didn’t even tell me you and Jongin were dating! You didn’t-“
“Why does it matter so much to you who I date or not?” Luhan sneers, the expression ugly reflected back at him and he steps back quickly. “Are you jealous it’s not you I’m fucking?”
There is silence. It rings through the air as the phone at Luhan’s ear is dead quiet. “Fuck you,” is the low harsh whisper and the line falls dead. Still with breaths hastened, Luhan turns, leaning against the cool tile of the bathroom and letting his head fall back. He lets his phone drop to his side, face creased as he knows that was a step over a line.
They don’t talk about it, the whole mess being what was determined a false call in their friendship. They don’t talk about it even if it happened and Yixing still watches Luhan with a yearning about him. They don't talk about how they’re closer than other friends are and how Luhan never brings it up because a small part of him knows, deep down, Yixing still loves him.
Crossing a line and Luhan feels guilt, the worst feeling possible, writhe inside him. He needs to apologize but not now. Now he is tired, he is burdened with the weight of ending a relationship that took up so much of his life and he needs to let himself be.
It never would have lasted, himself and Jongin. After a while it would have drawn to boredom and one of them would have left the other hollow and shattered. Jongin and all of his physical perfection would have faded, his beautiful innocence faded as it was ripped from him by life and it’s typical manner of disillusionment. Luhan can do better than a love struck boy who dances because he loves it and gives and gives because he has no other manner of showing how much he cares.
Luhan can do better than so many of the people he’s been settling with, the people who being as what are appealing prospects and end in disappointment. He can do better, he should do better.
Luhan was raised with high expectations and to strive to become the best, always fighting against odds and his peers to become everything that they would admire and look up to. Luhan was raised to become the best and then do better. Luhan is the best, is that which other look upon with awe and respect.
It seems only fitting that the best deserve the best in return and Luhan simply needs to find it.
Pulling the weeds from the garden helps it grown into the most beautiful display in the sunlight. ◦❀◦
Minseok’s mouth is funny when it forms a line. It glares at him just as much as Minseok does as he stands over him in the library and waits for him to look up from his books. “Hi.”
“Apologize to him,” Minseok immediately demands, arms folded over his chest as he stares down Luhan and looks entirely too serious for a Tuesday morning.
“I’m not apologizing to Jongin for breaking up with him,” Luhan answers easily, sitting back with a light sigh and fixing his friend with a look. It’s easier now that a day has passed and given time to settle. His phone has less messages on it today but Minseok is here in person glaring at him and his mouth looks so thin it could be in danger of disappearing. “I don’t regret breaking up with him so why should I apologize?”
“I’m not talking about Jongin,” Minseok growls, leaning over the library desk and into his face. “I’m talking about how Yixing sat and played sad or angry guitars chords in my room for three hours yesterday and refused to say anything aside from ‘fuckers gonna fuck’ and then cried when I tried to touch him.” Minseok looks livid and Luhan’s gut writhes again. “What the fuck is wrong with you?”
A low blow. An uncalled for blow. “I’ll talk to him today,” he says, trying to think of how to approach his best friend without setting him off. There are times when even Yixing, the most calm of all of them, cannot be reasoned with.
“You better,” Minseok says, his voice threatening.
“So protective,” Luhan mumbles under his breath as Minseok steps back and the other man freezes.
“Don’t even fucking start with me,” Minseok says but it sounds more like a tired throw out than a reprimanding smack.◦❀◦
The eyes that watch him are deeper now, lined with a wariness that hadn’t been there before, a stronger note of concern that seems out of place after all the trained indifference and lack of connection. The barriers are beginning to fall down, the glass and walls that she’s constructed between them beginning to look more transparent as her worry reveals.
Luhan strings lines of swears across the inside of his mind in a weaving tapestry of profanity and grit.
“It’s good to see you today,” she says and Luhan sits up, posture straightening as he makes himself proper on the couch, almost the exact same as he had the first session when he had walked in and distrusted instantly.
“I saw you last week,” Luhan says, his mind running through the codes and systems and plans and his schedule on repeat. It all flattens down to zero and there is no blip on the mind-scale.
“I know,” she says and her pen taps in her fingers, barely touching the clipboard for notes and assessment resting atop her knees. She’s wearing pants today. “I want to talk about that.”
“Why?” Last week was a maelstrom; a chaotic mess of flying emotions and crying that he never wanted to see and shouting that left throats raw and hearts bleeding. Last week was the ending of something worn out and used up and the mending of a break that is already broken and yet still remains holding fast. Why shouldn’t it? “Last week was-“ disgusting “-not the best, but it’s in the past now.”
“How are you doing with the break up?”
It’s the most confusing question Luhan ever has to answer. “I broke up with him.”
“I know, I am asking how you are dealing with it.” Jongin hasn’t talked to him and Yixing has become quieter but returned to his side just as always even if he doesn’t reach out to touch him as easily, hand faltering. Luhan watches him every time. “All breakups are hard when you go through them and I know your relationship meant a lot, even if it didn’t last.”
“It was an experience,” Luhan says.
“Tell me about it,” she says, leaning forward just a bit in her chair. She is paying attention, she is waiting for him to break and flood everything to her. She is waiting for him.
“You already know about it,” Luhan says, his hands resting palm down over the tops of his thighs as he sits with his back straight and his shoulders broad. Strong and stable and himself, confidence that laces over the follicles of hair brushing over his skin and knit him together.
“I know that you broke up with him,” she says and the light glints off the lenses in her glasses. Blinding. “I know that you were having problems with each other, just like all relationships have problems.” Luhan’s skin bristles at the comment. “I know that you’re scared to trust me, and I think you were scared to trust him.” Stones fill in the space between bones and solidify that which shall never be broken as her eyes begin to slip past that perfectly composed façade.
“That’s not why I broke up with him,” Luhan says, wanting to clear his throat but knowing the sound might show a sign that this is affecting him. When it isn't. Luhan broke up with Jongin because Jongin wasn’t enough, wasn’t there for him and didn’t love him like he should be loved. He wasn’t perfect and he fucked up and Luhan had to do it.
“But you very much liked being with him,” she says and Luhan’s fingers tense against the fabric of his jeans. “I remember you once telling me you loved him.”
“I was wrong.” There is no hesitation in his answer this time. “I was wrong and I realize that and that’s why I left. I left him because I need to be in a relationship where someone loves me. Where they can see how wonderful I am, where they know that I am the most important thing in their life.”
Shock spans over her face, as if Luhan’s sudden admission is entirely unexpected. Luhan isn’t a weak person, has done his best to never disillusion others of thinking so and part of the hatred that spawned between himself and Jongin was because of invalidated accusations.Let me help you
is the one thing he never needs to hear when he never needs anyone’s help but his own.
“And Jongin didn’t love you like this?”
“No.” Bitter taste at the back of his mouth as he stares hard into her eyes, the tang against his tongue stronger than the one from when he sits with a cup of black before him and Minseok watching him from across the table. “He didn’t.”
“I’m glad you don’t see this as something wrong with yourself.”
Roar of sound and a pressure against his body as the words sink into him with fangs of regret. “What the hell would be wrong with me?” Hours and years of work, time spent when he watched others waste their lives amid play and laughing before turning malicious eyes upon himself and sneering. Sweat that shines and a deep breath in that holds as he looks over himself and smiles in satisfaction. “There isn’t anything wrong with me. I’m excellent. I love myself.”
It’s like she’s getting nothing but shock and curves from him today as her pen quivers over her notes which are barely darkened by the steady draw of ink. “You do?”
“Why shouldn't I?” It comes out harsher than he intends but never will he take it back. Never will he swallow those words down.
It’s the first session where he takes something home, physical paper in his hand and a soft hand at his shoulder that lingers there to impart concern and care unto him but just irritates at the touch. Luhan is calm as he reads over the methods of self focus and calm, the mantras of healing words and the type-print phrases that are all a variation on ’I am enough.
The sound deep inside where the physical world of his body fades away into the dark expanse that is the human mind and a vaulting expanse that is more vast than the night sky. There, they paint in neon and white, and a ring of clarity begins to hum gently along the very fabric of his consciousness.◦❀◦ Part II ◦❀◦